BBC accused of bowing to climate change sceptics on Planet Relief

By staff writers
September 5, 2007

In a move designed to safeguard its independence, but which critics will see as bowing to a minority of climate change sceptics, the BBC has scrapped plans for the TV special Planet Relief, aimed at raising awareness of the human contribution to global warming.

The decision was reported on the BBC's own website earlier today. It comes after a blog onslaught from campaigners who claim that the scientific consensus on climate change is wrong, and following remarks from some BBC senior executives that the programme may breach impartiality guidelines.

Environmentalists are already reacting with dismay at the news, pointing out that Live Aid and Live8 were in a similar vein.

Anti-global warming lobbyists, who leading experts around the UN Stern report say have only a handful of maverick scientists on their side, have been stepping up pressure on the BBC following the broadcasting of ex-US presidential candidate Al Gore's series of awareness raising 'Live Earth' concerts around the world.

One of the celebrities who featured in that, comedian Ricky Gervais, was tipped to play a role in presenting Planet Relief.

One active idea for the show would have involved viewers in a mass "switch-off" to save energy. Though those involved in putting it together insist that this was only one possibility.

"This decision shows a real poverty of understanding among senior BBC executives about the gravity of the situation we face," activist and writer Mark Lynas told the corporation's online news service today.

He continued: "The only reason why this became an issue is that there is a small but vociferous group of climate 'sceptics' lobbying against taking action, so the BBC is behaving like a coward and refusing to take a more consistent stance."

But "It is absolutely not the BBC's job to save the planet," warned BBC2 Newsnight editor Peter Barron at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2007. He was backed by Head of TV news Peter Horrocks.

A number of right-wing commentators in newspapers like the Daily Mail, the Express and the Telegraph also attacked the idea.

However, the show's producers said that raising awareness is different to outright campaigning, as has been the case with world poverty.

There has as yet been no official comment as yet from the BBC's management.

It is likely that they will argue for their decision on the basis of lower than anticipated ratings for 'Live Earth' and the presence of other environment related strands in recent and planned programming.

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