Did Gelbspan Prompt the BBC to Avoid Giving ‘Unfair Media Balance’ to Skeptic Climate Scientists?

In late 2012, an interesting scandal broke out concerning how the British Broadcasting Service – the BBC – was trying very hard to avoid releasing the names of ‘experts’ who had contributed to a report which concluded that the BBC wasn’t especially obligated to give equal time to skeptics on the topic of man-caused global warming. While the subsequent release of the names revealed the ‘experts’ were potentially quite biased, the question remains, what caused the BBC to heed the advice of such people in the first place?

Back in June 2007 (as noted in a late 2012 account of a UK Register article about blogger Tony Newbery’s involvement in the matter), the BBC made a startling admission in a report concerning its plans on future reporting, with this particular statement about the global warming issue:

The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus.

The thing that bothered Tony Newbery was how the BBC report failed to mention who these ‘best scientific experts’ were. At the time the Register piece was written, a UK judge ruled the BBC was not obligated to provide the names for Newbery’s Freedom of Information inquiry. What bothered me about the situation was how the Register‘s article revealed the BBC name list included “various non-scientists such as NGO people, activists etc“.

At a UK blog which had reproduced portions of the Register article, I speculated the following just a day after the piece came out,

NGO people & activists. Having rummaged through the giant 2007 Complaint to Ofcom that resulted from the Channel 4 “Great Global Warning Swindle” video, I could offer a pretty good educated guess that it is the same cast of characters who all have just a few degrees of separation from the enviro-activists who’ve been pushing the smear of skeptic climate scientists over the last 20 or so years. Or at the very least, one or more of these mystery 28 are very likely are enslaved to regurgitating the talking points of those old enviro-activists.

Within days, blogger Maurizio Morabito found the names, and via an alert about one of them, I soon found something that seemed to prove my speculation, which I mentioned here, as follows:

How utterly predictable, Dr Joe Smith repeats the names “Boykoff & Boykoff” in his paper, who happen to be the guys I detailed already in my June 2011 article “‘Media Too Fair to Climate Skeptics’, say reporters who’ve been unfair to skeptics”.

All around the world, anytime the topic of skeptic climate scientists and the advice to ignore them comes up, all paths apparently lead to US anti-skeptic book author Ross Gelbspan

The predicted enslavement I was referring to is the Boykoffs’ 2004 paper “Balance as bias: global warming and the US prestige press“, the mecca for all pro-global warming journalists to turn to when making the demonstrably false assertion that the media has given ‘too much fair balance to skeptics’.

The Boykoffs appear to have gotten their ‘media balance’ narrative straight from Ross Gelbspan, since they thank him on page 10 in their Acknowledgements section while citing his claims about media bias on pg 3. But as I reported back in 2010, this presents a circular citation problem since Gelbspan cites the Boykoffs’ paper for proof of undeserved balance being given to skeptic scientists.

But the critical detail to consider is a November 29th 2005 BBC audio recording of Gelbspan (where he was described at the beginning and end as a Pulitzer winner), barely a month before the group of 28 best scientific experts’ assembled to offer opinions on how the BBC might not need to ‘give equal space to opponents of man-caused global warming (transcript here, audio here).

Sheer coincidence? That’s entirely possible, and speculation about that disappears if it is proven as such. But a basic problem still does not go away: Is there any instance where the BBC independently says skeptics were given too much media balance anywhere on the planet, and are unworthy of consideration because they are corrupted by funding from ‘big coal & oil’? Who tipped Dr Joe Smith about the Boykoffs’ paper for him to use in his own Nov/Dec 2005 paper, regarding the notion that skeptics do not deserve equal media weight? Who alerted the BBC to Gelbspan as someone to record in November 2005, and why would they twice call him a “Pulitzer winner” when by that time he had relegated himself to the label of “Pulitzer co-recipient”?

This is a problem for the BBC no matter which way it turns out, far beyond their inexplicable resistance to simply release names of some ‘experts’. Their core decision goes to the heart of basic due diligence which any journalist would perform regarding a scientific matter. Do scientific conclusions by the IPCC remain standing in the face of scientific criticism, and if the critics are accused of industry corruption, is the accusation sufficient enough to remain valid at the level of courtroom evidentiary hearings?

Actually, this is a problem every mainstream media outlet is facing.