Status Update: my complaint to BBC, re Radio 4’s “How They Made Us Doubt Everything” Ep. 6: ‘Reposition Global Warming’

Within my “Part 1” July 31, 2020 blog post / Aug 1 2020 WUWT guest post — just short of one year ago — I noted how I had made a formal complaint to the BBC about four egregious errors within Radio 4’s Episode 6 podcast report, where my complaint challenged the report’s insinuations that a pair of ‘leaked industry memo sets’ proved the fossil fuel industry deceived the public about the harm of global warming. It took two months for the BBC to at least partially admit that the guest featured within the podcast, ex-Greenpeace staffer / ex-Ozone Action staffer (the group that first gave the “reposition global warming” memo set its first major media traction in the late 1990s) Kert Davies, had inserted a racially-charged label into one of the supposedly ‘leaked memo sets’ that is demonstratively not anywhere in the set. I detailed that angle in my “Part 3” October 6, 2020 blog post, and further noted within it that my three other complaint points had not been addressed by the BBC at all, and I also directly alerted the BBC about that problem.

The BBC is a giant bureaucratic operation, it takes a while for complaints to get to the proper people. In October and November 2020, I received auto-replies from the BBC saying they would consider my other complaint points when they had time. Having not heard a word after that all the way up to May 22nd this year, I again reminded them at that time how my complaints remain largely unaddressed. I got yet another “we are currently dealing with a higher than normal volume of cases” auto-reply June 1st ………… and then received what your see verbatim below on July 7th, in the italicized, indented paragraphs.

For ease of understanding all of this, my responses addressing each of their individual points as they come up are in the non-indented paragraphs. The boldface highlighting is my own.

Reference CAS-6241179-K0Y8J5
Dear Mr Cook

Thank you for taking the time to contact us again. We are sorry to learn that you were not satisfied with our earlier response.

We raised your remaining concerns about How They Made Us Doubt Everything with the programme team and senior editorial staff at Radio 4. They respond here as follows:

Regarding the ad – we said it was

• “sent to Rush Limbaugh in 1991”
• “he was the most widely listened to conservative talkshow host at that time on radio stations across the country”

We stand by those facts, and do not agree that it was implied that the ad was actually broadcast – either in Dakota, or nationwide.

Well … what was implied by those statements, then? I stated that part of Radio 4’s ‘evidence’ for industry-led disinformation campaigns was the implication that Limbaugh read an industry-created ad in a live broadcast to his nationwide audience. Missing from Radio 4’s bullet points above is one stating that BBC/Radio 4 basically said, via Kert Davies,We have the language that Rush Limbaugh read on the air.” Are we to believe that listeners of those statements or readers of them would literally perceive no implication there of any kind??

Regarding the target audience:
The guest Kert Davies added a word to the targeting phrase when he described it: “…lower educated WHITE males…” Our own reporter didn’t insert that word into her reading of it. This has already been clarified, post broadcast, in the episode description on the episode web page:

No, it has not been clarified in the least, as I pointed out in my October 2020 post. It’s safe to say, for comparison, that nobody would accept a statement that “God save the Queen” is a paraphrase of “God save the white Queen.” Yes, the Radio 4 program team / senior editorial staff say an unnamed female narrator read the memo sentence correctly, but what they did not say in their response to me here was that podcast host Peter Pomerantsev prominently stated the memo sentence incorrectly, with the racially-charged word in it, and further expressed outrage over it. Radio 4 and BBC cannot say they are in the clear simply because their narrator didn’t insert the racially-charged word while the primary report presenter did more than merely paraphrase the sentence.

We consistently used the word ‘plan’ throughout the script. We think this is duly accurate. It was a plan.

Not immediately readily obvious in the BBC’s email response right there is that the Radio 4 program team / senior editorial staff switched gears to refer to the part of my complaint concerning the way the “victory will be achieved” leaked memo set was for an action that was never implemented in any form anywhere, thus it cannot serve as evidence that fossil fuel industry-led disinformation campaigns exist. So, now, what do the Radio 4 people mean there? Was it “a plan” that was never implemented and thus never widely seen anywhere, or was it a plan so effective in its widespread implementation that it ‘made us doubt everything’? You can’t have it both ways. At the 7:36 point of the podcast, the unnamed narrator states, “Like the Tobacco industry plan, the energy group planned to target the media, too.” Could it be construed that the Tobacco industry never actually implemented disinformation campaigns simply because they only ‘planned’ to do so?? Meanwhile, in the podcast report, host Peter Pomerantsev declared with regard to the “victory will be achieved” memo set, “They aren’t messing around, this plan has a budget of eight million dollars.” A never-implemented suggestion has no budget. But that’s not what listeners would perceive from Pomerantsev’s declaration.

In regards to the ‘victory will be achieved’ plan not being put into effect, we do reflect this fact, it is included in Myron Ebell’s statement that we read out. As you will have heard on air, we also put this to Exxon and Southern Company and reflected their responses on air. In regards to the ICE plan, we did put this to Edison Electric Institute and read out their response.

Yes, indeed, at the 8:05 point of the podcast, another unnamed narrator states, “The plan was never put into effect when it became apparent that then-presided Clinton was not going to submit the [Kyoto] treaty to the Senate.” Well not quite, he didn’t waste time submitting it because it became abundantly obvious that the Senate was never going to ratify that treaty. But that’s beside the point. If the “victory will be achieved” memo set is not evidence that any industry-led disinformation campaign took place, then why bring it up at all, and why not instead supply leaked memo evidence which irrefutably proves other disinformation campaigns did take place?

Yes, the BBC podcast report read the utterly generic responses provided by Exxon and Southern starting at the 8:30 point, and Edison Electric at the 13:52 point, all of whom probably didn’t have the first clue what the Radio 4 people were specifically talking about. If they quiried current administrators of the Western Fuels Association (which ran the pilot project ICE campaign back in 1991 and rejected the Edison Electric suggestion outright), it wouldn’t be surprising if the current WFA people had no idea what the Radio 4 people were asking about.  As I showed in my August 5, 2020 blog post, Rush Limbaugh didn’t. In fact, he wasn’t even aware that Radio 4 people were trying to contact him over this matter.

Regarding the ICE we said that following their polling they created “test market proposals” and strategies, but whether they were actively implemented or not is a moot point. The documents revealed how pollsters viewed the public, the medium they wished to use and the end result they wanted to achieve.

Whether the memo set falsely attributed to the — correctly named — “Information Council for the Environment” was or wasn’t implemented is absolutely not a moot point, it’s one of the most critically salient points there is in the ‘industry-paid crooked skeptics’ accusation, because that’s all that’s left in the enviro-activists’ arsenal when it comes to “evidence” used to accuse industry executives and skeptic climate scientists of colluding to spread disinformation. Without that, there is no proof that anybody in the fossil fuel industry targeted or viewed the public in any sinister manner or that they had evil intentions to “reposition” anything.

The key thing is that such a strategy was even being considered, researched and put up for consideration at all. We realise you continue to disagree with the points made in the episode, but have nothing further to add here

Nossir. When the basic premise of a podcast news analysis report is that an entire industry deliberately hid what they knew of the harm of their products and instead put out lies to make the public doubt everything about that harm, you present evidence conclusively proving the lies correspond directly with specific directives on what, when, where, and how the lies were carried out, not speculative suggestions that were never carried out in any form.

For comparison, if a strategy plan memo set was presented the BBC to deliberately spread false news as an experiment to see how many dumb people repeat it, and the BBC rejected it and/or never implemented it, but the memo set was leaked afterward to Fox News in the U.S. and widely touted elsewhere as ‘evidence’ that news outlets spread disinformation, could Fox News legitimately claim that the ‘strategy plan memo set’ they quote proves the BBC lies to the public?

Of course not. The insinuation would be ludicrous.

At this point, we cannot correspond with you further at this first stage of the complaints process. If however you are still dissatisfied, you can contact the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU). The ECU is stage 2 of the BBC’s complaints process.

Details of the BBC complaints process are available at where you can read the BBC’s full complaints framework. You should contact the ECU within 20 working days of receiving this reply. You will need to explain why you believe there may have been a potential breach of standards or other significant issue for it to investigate.

If you wish to contact the ECU, we have provided a unique url link for you in this email. This will open up further information about how to submit your complaint. The link will then not work after you have submitted your complaint. You will be asked for the case reference number we have provided in this reply.

This is your link to contact the ECU if you wish: Click here
Kind regards
BBC Complaints

I will indeed “click there,” which was a lengthy url address pertaining directly to my own complaint case that takes me to a page for BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit office. It’s ironic how the people at the BBC Complaints office technically say I have less than three weeks to respond in order to keep this complaint alive, when their own office took around 50 weeks to finally come to their final conclusion.

I won’t need a thousand words* for this next level of complaint; the problem is elemental, actually, much like what’s regurgitated in nearly all of the U.S. global warming damages lawsuits. The argument is presented that fossil fuel industry execs knew their products caused global warming, but they colluded with skeptic climate scientist ‘shills’ to deceive the public into believing there was no harm …… and the only ‘evidence’ there is for such disinformation campaigns are the directives in the “reposition global warming” / “victory will be achieved” memo sets which nobody followed.

Hurl accusations devoid of evidence to back them up, and your accusations collapse, no matter who you are.
* [8/19/21 Author’s addition: It turns out the restriction at the online ECU form was not 1000 words as the Stage 1 BBC people said, but instead was 5000 characters … so my 7/13/21 response – verbatim here – was 45 characters under that limit, at 813 words. Again, as with the other online forms, the other restriction was that no web links were permitted.]