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Wayback Machine Trumps FOI Tribunal 401

Posted by timothy
from the this-thing-called-the-internet dept.
New submitter calder123 writes "Last week, the BBC won an FOIA tribunal ruling that they didn't have to reveal the names of attendees at a seminar in 2006, designed to shape the BBC's coverage of climate change issues. The document, uncovered by Maurizio Morabito, puts comments by the BBC that the meeting was held under Chatham House rules, and that the seminar drew on top scientific advice in an interesting light. In a bizarre coincidence, four of the BBC's attendees at the seminar have resigned in the last few days."
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Wayback Machine Trumps FOI Tribunal

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  • Must be nice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:26AM (#41966989)

    So the BBC is happy to take public money, but doesn't think there should be ANY strings or responsibilities attached? Must be nice. I wonder if they would accept other public agencies refusing THEIR Freedom of Information requests. I suspect not. And yet that is the precedent they could set.

    Personally, I think it's a bad precedent to be set by a institution that has a journalistic wing itself. But, then again, I'm a little creeped out by the whole idea of a state-run media in the first place, even one that stringently attempts to remain objective. It's bound to produce conflicts of interest, no matter how much you try to avoid them.

    And, even putting the precedent aside, it just looks bad. If you're going to ask others to be open, it's really embarrassing when it looks like you're trying to hide something yourself, especially when openness is one of your stated [bbc.co.uk] goals, oft-repeated. [bbc.co.uk]

    • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

      by Spad (470073) <slashdot@noSpam.spad.co.uk> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:32AM (#41967053) Homepage

      The BBC is not state-run, it is a publicly (not government) funded independent body.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by MightyYar (622222)

        Isn't that kind of semantic? They have the power to tax. They "own" all of the airwaves. It may not be government by some technicality in law, but to a citizen the effect is the same.

        • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

          by jabuzz (182671) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:43AM (#41967167) Homepage

          No because the government has virtually no power whatsoever over what the content provided by the BBC; excepting that the Foreign Office pays (or at least did in the past) some money to the BBC to run the World Service and sets the amount of the license fee.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by MightyYar (622222)

            So what? It's still the government. My local sewage authority is set up to have almost no direct government oversight except for revenue approval (it spans jurisdictions), but I still don't pretend that my sewer service is privately provided.

            • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Sique (173459) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:46AM (#41968045) Homepage
              No, it's not the government. It will not be the goverment and it was never the government. Your problem is the false dichotomy which doesn't recognize anything else than "private" and "government". The local sewage plant is legally owned by a governmental entity, so it's governmental. The BBC is not owned by any governmental entity. It just belongs to itself.
        • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

          by telchine (719345) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:46AM (#41967203)

          Isn't that kind of semantic? They have the power to tax.

          The BBC is funded by a licence. It is not funded by tax.

          I can choose not to pay for a licence. I can not choose not to pay tax.

          • Lets see, if you live in the UK and have a TV you have to pay it, and if you don't its a criminal offense.

            Sounds like a tax to me [wikipedia.org]

            • by Enry (630) <`enry' `at' `wayga.net'> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:11AM (#41967527) Journal

              Stealing cable is a criminal offence too. Not sure how this is any different.

            • by floofyscorp (902326) <<floofyscorp> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:12AM (#41967533) Homepage
              "live broadcast television transmissions" You can own a TV and not pay the license fee, so long as you're not watching live TV on it or any other device in your home.
            • by trnk (1887028) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:16AM (#41967589)
              Nope.

              You can own as many TV's as you want, you can watch DVD's, play on a console, stand your drinks on them, all without a license, all perfectly legally. You only need a license if you are using your TV to watch a live broadcast.
              • by MightyYar (622222)

                How does that work in practice? If you have a TV sitting there, they won't nail you to the wall for not paying your fee?

                • by trnk (1887028)
                  It's a bit of a funny one. Technically the onus is on them to prove that you're actually using it to watch TV; in the olden days there was this idea of the TV licensing bogey-man who'd drive round in a van and use fancy gadgets to detect which addresses were receiving TV signals. How they do it these days I'm not so sure, I guess anyone who's got any kind of cable service would get flagged pretty quickly.
                  In my experience they just send you really annoying letters that get progressively more threatening, the
                • by Xest (935314)

                  No they wont.

                  They have to actually be able to prove you were watching live TV. They do often manage to do this though because most non-license fee payers are dumb enough to have their TV on display from the front window meaning all they have to do is walk past, take a picture from the public street of your TV displaying a live show and then nail you for it.

                  But if you genuinely don't want to watch live broadcast TV and just use your TV for DVDs, or your computer or whatever then there's jack shit they can do

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            That's like saying you can choose to not pay sales tax by simply not buying anything, hence it's not a tax. There's no tax that you can't avoid by simply not doing anything. You buy a TV, money from that goes to the BBC. It's semantics, government agency, tax payer funded, etc.

            • by trnk (1887028)
              The BBC does not receive money from the sale of TVs, and the license fee is not linked in any way to the sale of TVs. You do not need a license to buy a TV, and a TV does not (nor cannot) come with a license. The TV license is completely separate, annual thing that you buy for your property, to cover all the devices at your address, and is required only if you are watching live broadcasts at that address.
            • That is no longer true. In the U.S., there is a tax on not buying health insurance that is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2014. The only way to avoid this tax is to do something that will probably cost more than the tax, so most of those effected will almost certainly choose to pay the tax.
              • The only way to avoid this tax is to do something that will probably cost more than the tax, so most of those effected will almost certainly choose to pay the tax.

                Wait, what?

                - The way to avoid this tax is to buy something that you almost certainly need anyway. Most people already buy it, even without the penalty.
                - Most people who are not already buying health insurance are doing so because it costs too much, not because it costs more than a penalty that hasn't been levied yet. Those people will receiv

          • by nedlohs (1335013)

            I have chosen not to pay capital gains tax by not having any capital gains. So is that also not also not a tax?

          • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

            by chowells (166602) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:12AM (#41967537) Homepage

            As of 2006, the licence fee *is* considered a tax.

            http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldbbc/128/128i.pdf [parliament.uk]

            "Parliament and not Government should set the level of the licence fee. In January 2006, the Office of National Statistics classified the licence fee as a tax for the first
            time. We are very concerned about the consequences that this decision will have for the BBC’s independence."

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Lumpy (12016)

            "I can choose not to pay for a licence."

            Yeah, Go ahead and try that.

            • by Kangburra (911213)

              I did this when I lived in the UK, they kept sending reminders that if watching TV I needed one but no-one ever came to check. In fact I did not own a TV so it would have been a waste of time anyway, :)

            • by telchine (719345)

              "I can choose not to pay for a licence."

              Yeah, Go ahead and try that.

              I haven't paid for a tv licence in many years; I don't watch television, nor do I own one. What's your point?

        • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:57AM (#41967355) Homepage Journal

          Isn't that kind of semantic? They have the power to tax. They "own" all of the airwaves. It may not be government by some technicality in law, but to a citizen the effect is the same.

          No, speaking as a citizen, the effect is more or less the opposite. The BBC is (or should be, when it's brave enough) a bulwark against the government. For example the judiciary, in the US system, is also paid for out of taxes, but is independent and acts to limit the power of the executive. The BBC is intended (in part) to act analogously, but with an investigatory role rather than a judicial one. Sometimes (for example over the non-existent 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' [bbc.co.uk]) the BBC has fulfilled that role magnificently - although following their cave-in over the Kelly affair [wikipedia.org] they've been disappointingly timid.

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            But the judiciary is still "the government".

            • by Anonymous Coward

              I believe that in the UK, they use "government" to refer just to the executive.
              So the judiciary isn't "the government", and neither is Parliament.
              Help me out, British Slashdotters; is this understanding correct?

              • You are correct.
              • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Informative)

                by Xest (935314) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:16AM (#41968505)

                It can be a fairly muddy term.

                When people say government they're usually referring to the subset of members of parliament who are currently in power.

                Technically though the civil service which are the permanent unelected staff who help run our society by advising the government in power what the protocol is when they want to arrange a meeting with a world leader and that sort of thing are also government, but if I was to refer to them I'd just call them what they are The Civil Service.

                I wouldn't call the police government, I wouldn't call the NHS government, I wouldn't call the army government, I wouldn't call the judiciary government. Whilst the likes of the judiciary makes decisions with no government influence and has the power to even hold government to account I would however say that the government determines from a high level how they are run.

                This is where the BBC is still different from these other organisations though, the government has absolutely no power to determine how the BBC is run. It can do nothing more than set the cost of the license fee by limiting any increases which can put the squeeze on it somewhat but that's about it.

                Technically the BBC only answers to the Queen as it exists by Royal Charter, so if for some reason, say the BBC unveiled itself as a bunch of lizardmen intent on taking over the world giving the government a real actual reason to take control of it or destroy it then the most government could do is push a motion in parliament to disband it, then present that to the Queen who along with her advisors would decide what to do - i.e. whether to withdraw the charter. Even this would require a lot of legal wrangling on behalf of the Queen though and her advisors - i.e. whether there was legitimate cause to do so under law and so forth. They found it hard enough to even revoke a knighthood given to someone a couple of years back who turned out to be not quite so deserving of it after all so revoking the BBC's charter would likely be very difficult indeed.

                So I suppose in theory the government could go about attempting to influence or disband the BBC via the Queen, but there are two reasons that wont happen:

                1) Any government doing this would probably find it more fatal to them than the BBC such that they'd probably see so many rebellions and be kicked out of power so quickly that they wouldn't have chance to take it anywhere. Just to reiterate the point, this would be about as politically untenable as the president deciding to rip up the US constitution in the US whilst nuking a few US states for fun.

                2) Whilst the BBC remains a quality organisation, the Queen would probably quite literally tell the government to go fuck itself. One of the few actual executive things she'd rightfully have the power to do in this day and age where she's really nothing more than an ornament that brings in the tourists with her estates and history.

        • by ewanm89 (1052822)

          Yes, and no, it's ingrained in the UK's constitution and how we are an autocratic monarchy. The BBC is setup by royal charter directly by the monarch and therefore is not any real business of the government, who are there to technically advise the monarch through the privy council, however other than in certain circumstances (times of war, changing a royal charter, ignoring a royal charter) the monarch is to take their advice. There are certain points in the charter where it allows for the BBC to charge the

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            My turn to be semantic. I don't think the UK has a constitution.

            Also, I'm not sure how the monarch is not "the government".

            • by Richy_T (111409)

              Absolutely. Ewanm89 needs to check out the concept or parliamentary sovereignty also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliamentary_sovereignty [wikipedia.org]

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Britain is held by political scientists to have an "uncodified" constitution. It operates in a rather different way to the US one, but it's a long way from not existing. The wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] doesn't suck, if you want an overview.

              On a related note, the monarch personally is definitely not "the government" - but "the Crown" as a body certainly is (the legislative power in the UK is vested in "The Crown in Parliament" for example). Again wikipedia [wikipedia.org] is pretty good.

              Most of this is fairly complex and technical, b

      • Then can you explain to me what the British people I've talked to meant when they said "the BBC tax", which I thought was a tax on televisions to pay for the BBC.

        • Re:Must be nice (Score:4, Informative)

          by geminidomino (614729) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:48AM (#41967239) Journal

          I think it's akin to what techies have called "The Microsoft Tax," or paying for a copy of Windows that you might not want when buying a new PC. IANAB, but as I understand it, you CAN buy a TV without a BBC license, if you're only using it as a monitor for a DVD player, console, computer, etc... but there's some hoops to jump through to get them to stop bugging you about it.

        • by N1AK (864906)
          I have never heard anyone in the UK talk of a BBC tax, I would assume they are dumbing down the concept of the license fee for their audience. As someone who has never paid the license fee yet happily uses various TVs for games, dvds, BBC iPlayer and Sky Player I can assure you that there is no tax on tvs in the UK.
        • The "BBC Tax" aka TV License is an annual charge for the services provided by the BBC, that being radio and television. Each household is expected to have a TV license if they own a TV which is used to view television, as it is not possible to deny access to BBC services on a per-household basis. There are exclusions; Monochrome TVs are exempt, as are households with no TV antenna (which allows you to use your TV as a games console monitor without paying a fee). However, with the advent of streaming TV (iPl
        • Re:Must be nice (Score:4, Informative)

          by jabuzz (182671) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:58AM (#41967379) Homepage

          They must be referring to the "license fee" which unlike a tax is not collected by Her Majesties Revenue and Customs (here after the HMRC) on behalf of the treasury.

          The license fee is collected these days by the BBC, but they subcontract it out. Admittedly it is payed into the consolidated fund, but comes straight back out in it's entirety to the BBC.

          Technically it is not a tax, though the Office for National Statistics does classify it as a tax, and most people might see it however incorrectly as such.

          • Technically it is not a tax, though the Office for National Statistics does classify it as a tax, and most people might see it however incorrectly as such.

            They might correctly see it as such for a variety of reasons. For instance:
            1) It's a compulsory fee that carries criminal penalties for evasion.

            2) It's classified as a tax by ONS, as you said.

            3) It's being used as a tax, such as the fact that it was used to help pay for the digital switchover a few years back and that failing to pay it blocks access to more than just the BBC (e.g. ITV and Channel 4), suggesting that it's not a simple fee for access to private content, but rather a tax on access to any conte

          • Who enforces the collection?

        • Re:Must be nice (Score:4, Informative)

          by SilentMobius (10171) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:13AM (#41967553)

          It's a colloquialism. To receive live TV you must have a TV licence, buying a TV is orthogonal to this. If I own a computer and use BBC iplayer to watch live TV I also need a licence, the fact you have bought a physical TV or not is irreverent, the question is are you receiving live TV signals.

          IMHO the BBC is a public funded body that functions as an independent news service by royal charter, it is not an organ of government and thus should not be subject for FOI requests just like any other news service

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The government is publicly funded as well..

      • Re:Must be nice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by clark0r (925569) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:38AM (#41967109) Homepage
        If I had mod points I would mod you up. Most articles on the BBC are followed by comments by people who do not understand the fundamental workings of the organisation. The BBC is an independent news organisation. It does not have to bend to the will of governments or advertisers. That is it's huge advantage over commercial news and TV broadcasts. You only need to watch some US news shows to understand why this is preferable to commercial TV news.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by khallow (566160)
          An "independent" news agency which depends on the UK government to enforce its TV tax. And the information that the FOI request attempted to uncover shows a) that the conference in question was stacked with activitists and a token number of scientists. b) that all of the BBC advisers who appeared there apparently went on to bigger and better things, including resigning due to deep involvement in a defamation scandal involving a conservative UK politician.

          What it looks like to me is that AGW advocates too
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            An "independent" news agency which depends on the UK government to enforce its TV tax.

            Yep, just like the independent Judiciary is funded by the Legislature it is designed to be a check against. The arrangement hasn't caused any problems so far.

      • Being a yank from the states, most publically funded entities do have some sort of rights and restrictions attached to their public funding, especially after decades of pushing "accountability" into any public funded venture. Even if it is not ran by the state it is regulated and beholding to the state.

        • Re:Must be nice (Score:4, Insightful)

          by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:48AM (#41967225) Homepage Journal

          Well, sure, but CBS, NBC, ABC, and even Fox are regulated, and thus beholden, to the state too.

          It would be a mistake to suggest that the BBC is particularly beholden to government simply because it's funded by the TV licence fee rather than advertising. It's placing weight on a somewhat dubious fact that implies something that isn't the case.

          • by ewieling (90662)
            I think the original poster was referring to PBS. PBS gets 15% of its funding from the federal govt (some stations get a higher percent) and the federal govt reminds PBS of that fact any time the "liberal network" does something someone doesn't like. I wish PBS got no funding from the govt. Then PBS could send them a nice "Fuck Off!" and do what it wants without worrying about offending someone and getting their funding yanked.
    • Yes it is nice, having the BBC that is.

      State _funded_ TV with a charter for the betterment of the populous has set the standard for TV in this country that and (somewhat) mitigated the "race to the bottom" that is being run more rapidly in countries that don't have that stabilizing force.

      The BBC should be compared with other media organisations when talking about openness not wings of government, apples and oranges.

    • by AlecC (512609)

      At some level, organisations have to have the ability to discuss things privately. People have to have the chance to float novel ideas without fear that they might be pilloried for what was just a tentative discussion point. Was this purely a discussion, or did actions arise out of it? If it was purely a discussion, then "Chatham House Rules", which means that you do not reveal the discussions. On the other hand, if the meeting was forming actual policy and had outcomes other than just informing the partici

      • by ghostdoc (1235612)

        The BBC abandoned impartial coverage of climate change, deliberately and publicly, as a result of this meeting, citing the opinions of the experts present at this meeting as sufficient justification.

        I think the public has a right to know what experts were there so that they can judge the weight of their opinions and therefore the BBC's justification for abandoning journalistic impartiality.

        The BBC disagreed and spent a significant amount of public money attempting to avoid the FOI request. Considering the a

  • I don't want to die for any of the regular, boring reasons.
  • Disruption (Score:2, Interesting)

    by EasyTarget (43516)

    This FOI request, like so many others, is another polluters attempt to disrupt those who are telling them they must stop polluting.
    yawn.

    I have a message for these denialist children: Please grow up and stop helping the greedy pollute our planet.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This FOI request, like so many others, is another polluters attempt to disrupt those who are telling them they must stop polluting.
      yawn.

      I have a message for these denialist children: Please grow up and stop helping the greedy pollute our planet.

      If AGW is a correct theory, it can withstand the light of day.

      Conversely, if a simple FOI request is sooo damn disruptive, the problem is not with the "denialist children". It's with the ones expressing religious faith and calling people names.

      • Re:Disruption (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:53AM (#41967303)
        It isn't a religious faith. Its science. Its writing on the wall, and serious people are finally starting to read it [phys.org]. The people polluting the Earth are already having an impact on our weather patterns - one that has claimed lives.
        • Maybe you are right. But there are scientists who disagree with that, based on evidence. If the BBC had truly wanted to understand the issue, they would have invited scientists, even those who think global warming isn't a serious problem.

          Instead they invited dubious environmental groups like Greenpeace (who they listed as experts), a few scientists (I counted four), and a bunch of journalists. Clearly the BBC is not interested in truth here, they are interested in propaganda.

          If they were interested in
      • Re:Disruption (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:04AM (#41967451)

        Before this, the BBC gave equal airtime to pro and anti climate change viewpoints. This was despite the fact that the vast majority by far of scientists (especially those in the field of climate science) agreed that climate change, and man-made climate change, are real. Science is not impartial.

        This was the equivalent of demanding that the BNP or Monster Raving Loonies (or whatever 1% political parties the US has) get equal airtime to the main parties in an election, in all respects.

        So they changed it to reasonably match what the current reality on the science was, so that they weren't misrepresenting the issues to the viewers.

        Since then, it appears that certain people have been continually trolling the BBC because their platform for spreading misinformation has gone away. Aww diddums.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by PPH (736903)

          Science is not impartial.

          What?!! It had damned well better be.

          And its not done yet. Climate models need to continually be revised to account for as yet unexplained phenomena. Like why Antarctic ice is growing. Until these models are refined to the point of making reliable predictions, they are of little use to support critical economic decisions. And preliminary decisions already in effect may have to be refined or even reversed should revised theories dictate their change.

          On the other hand, if the science is 'done' as many claim

          • Why is the Antarctic ice growing? Lots of excellent and empirically supported explanations. But just because you can't itemize the specific outcomes of an event doesn't mean you shouldn't work to prevent it.

            "Oh there's a feral rabid monkey on the loose downtown should we stop it?"
            "Nah, we don't know exactly who it's going to bite or when. Until we really understand the feral monkey's motivations we shouldn't do anything or assume we can understand what it'll do next. Maybe a feral monkey is good for soc

          • by smugfunt (8972)

            Science is not impartial.

            What?!! It had damned well better be.

            No. Science is, and should be, strongly biased in favour of the facts.

      • Re:Disruption (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:05AM (#41967469) Homepage

        If AGW is a correct theory, it can withstand the light of day.

        It has withstood the light of day. Repeatedly. For approximately 20 years. To the point where the vast majority of scientists who study this stuff agree that it's the best available explanation of numerous observed changes in the climate.

        The only place there's a serious debate is in the public imagination, and that's largely due to a very well-funded PR campaign funded by the oil and coal industries.

        • Re:Disruption (Score:5, Insightful)

          by khallow (566160) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:35AM (#41967881)

          The only place there's a serious debate is in the public imagination, and that's largely due to a very well-funded PR campaign funded by the oil and coal industries.

          Show me the money. If there's a "well funded" PR campaign then someone has to be spending that money. In contrast there are vast sums being spent on pro-AGW PR. For example, whole government programs are devoted to this, such as UK's Met Office and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (a department in US's NASA).

          • by Xest (935314)

            Yes, that's the difference between public sector where there is enforced transparency due to acts like the Freedom of Information act, and public sector where no such transparency is necessary.

            It's a stupid proposition, the reason climate change is exposed by public sector is because public sector is not tainted by an inherent bias to profit. Despite the conspiracy theory about how scientists are bigging up the climate change thing to keep themselves in a job things are different in reality. You mention the

          • Re:Disruption (Score:5, Informative)

            by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @12:52PM (#41970135) Homepage

            In about 30 seconds with Google, I found:
            - an entire book [columbia.edu] on the subject
            - Greenpeace [greenpeace.org], for whatever their word is worth, claiming that the Koch brothers have donated over $61 million to the cause of denying global warming.
            - a 2007 article from Newsweek [thedailybeast.com] about it.

            I could keep going, but the point is that this is a demonstrably incorrect counterargument (or the pro-global warming folks have some sort of massive conspiracy that they've been able to keep going for a couple of decades).

            • by khallow (566160)

              - an entire book on the subject

              And is the book any good? I don't want to bother with it, if it's going to be a waste of my time. Glancing through reviews [skepticalscience.com] of the book, it doesn't sound that impressive. A favorable review has this as the bold claim, Exxon Mobile spending millions, but not a lot of millions to protect its business.

              The fossil fuel industry, who have poured millions of dollars into PR campaigns to confuse the public. Over 8 years, the most profitable company in history, Exxon Mobil, gave $16 million to think tanks that deny global warming science. Fossil fuel companies also give millions of dollars to politicians such as Joe Barton and James Inhofe, who vehemently oppose climate action.

              - Greenpeace, for whatever their word is worth, claiming that the Koch brothers have donated over $61 million to the cause of denying global warming.

              Doing that google thing, I see that $61 million is a mere six years funding of the US branch [activistcash.com] of Greenpeace. The World Wildlife Fund has $180 million [forbes.com] in funding last year of which $44 million came from government s

          • by niiler (716140)
            Please see the book: Merchants of Doubt.: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming [amazon.com].

            From Publishers Weekly:
            "Oreskes and Conway tell an important story about the misuse of science to mislead the public on matters ranging from the risks of smoking to the reality of global warming. The people the authors accuse in this carefully documented book are themselves scientists—mostly physicists, former cold warriors who now serve a conservative agenda, and

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @09:45AM (#41967191)

    That's why BBC had to do this:

    - This is incredible. In Jan 2006 the BBC held a meeting of “the best scientific experts” to decide BBC policy on climate change reporting (t)
    - The BBC has been in court blocking FOI attempts to get the list of the 28 attendees, but it’s just been discovered on the wayback machine (t)
    - It turns out that only 3 were current scientists (all alarmists). The rest were activists or journalists (t)
    - The BBC sent four low level representatives: Peter Rippon, Steve Mitchell, Helen Boaden, George Enwistle. All have since risen to power. (t)
    - Amazingly, those are also the exact four who have thus far resigned this week over the false paedophilia accusations against Lord McAlpine. (t)

    • All around, alarmists and deniers. 30 second sound bytes work great for both, but are horrible at actually delivering the truth... which is damn complex. A look at a statistical fit study that implies man-made CO2 is the most likely cause: http://berkeleyearth.org/results-summary/ [berkeleyearth.org].

      "BUT IS IT MAN-MADE AND REAL!!?"

      Probably.

      • by meta-monkey (321000) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @12:18PM (#41969527) Journal
        Exactly. The problem is that non-scientists and non-engineers don't understand the subtleties of modeled predictions or trade-offs, and that some words in science have different connotations than they do in lay-speak. For instance, the "it's only a theory!" argument, applied to evolution. In lay speak, "theory" means "idea" and is only slightly better than a "guess." In science a "theory" is "something that fits absolutely everything we know and can be overturned in a dime if we find something better, and we're constantly looking for something better."

        Or "certainty." There is no such thing as "scientific certainty." It's scientific certainty until we find something better, and whatever models we have right now (for anything) could be correct only to the extent of our ability to measure. For instance, Newton's laws of motion survived every test! We've got it! Scientific certainty! Oh, until Einstein discovered this little 2nd-order effect about velocity compared to the speed of light. And we still keep looking for something better than Einstein's equations.

        With engineering, ask the question "can this be done?" The answer is almost always "yes." But people don't ask or don't pay attention to the follow-up question, "at what cost?" or "what do we give up by doing so?"

        So the climate scientist says, "the climate is probably changing, and it's probably due to man's influence." And the Alarmist says "See! We're all doomed!" and the denier says "They said probably! It's all fake, and they don't know!" And the consequences of climate change are truly debatable.

        And the engineer says "yes, we can produce alternative sources of power that do not (directly) emit CO2 but it will be very costly" and the Alarmist says "See! It can be done, and the only reason not to is because of greed!" and the Denier says "It'll be too costly, and therefore can't be done!" And the truth is in the middle.
    • by Shrike82 (1471633) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:09AM (#41968397)
      Point by point analysis:

      This is incredible. In Jan 2006 the BBC held a meeting of “the best scientific experts” to decide BBC policy on climate change reporting

      Is incredulity the appropriate response here? Is the fact that they held the meeting incredible, or are the quotation marks supposed to help me figure it out?

      The BBC has been in court blocking FOI attempts to get the list of the 28 attendees, but it’s just been discovered on the wayback machine

      Great. How about actually quoting the BBC on their reasons for attempting to block the FOIA request instead of speculating that it must be a conspiracy?

      It turns out that only 3 were current scientists (all alarmists). The rest were activists or journalists

      Woah, woah, woah. Look at the list everyone. I can spot a hell of a lot more than three names and affiliations on there that I'd call scientists. Which three are we referring to? What discounts all the others from being scientists? A baffling and quite badly founded argument really...

      The BBC sent four low level representatives: Peter Rippon, Steve Mitchell, Helen Boaden, George Enwistle. All have since risen to power.

      "Low level" eh? The Duty Editor for World at One/PM/The World this Weekend, the Head Of Radio News, the Director of News and the Head of TV Current Affairs. Not to mention the 28 other BBC staff attending. Why the focus on just these four in particular and the dismissal of their roles at that time? Again baffling...

      Amazingly, those are also the exact four who have thus far resigned this week over the false paedophilia accusations against Lord McAlpine.

      Ah less baffling now. They've been involved in a scandal this week so their involvement brings into question the entire proceedings of a seminar nearly seven years ago, apparently. That's some astounding journalism. *golf clap* Kudos to "Bruce Hoult in a Bishop Hill comment" (from TFA) for selective blindness and blatant agenda pushing in an article attempting to criticise the BBC for the very same things. Truly inspiring.

  • or is it a FOIA ?
    And what are Chatham House rules? (I know where the Chatham Islands are, but I don't think that has anything to do with this)

    And does a "Wayback Machine" look like a blue phone booth with the word "Police" on and a flashing light on top?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      or is it a FOIA ?
      And what are Chatham House rules? (I know where the Chatham Islands are, but I don't think that has anything to do with this)

      And does a "Wayback Machine" look like a blue phone booth with the word "Police" on and a flashing light on top?

      I'll bite.

      The Royal Institute of International Affairs is also known as Chatham House. The Chatham House Rule states that when a meeting is held under such rule, participants are free to use information from the meeting, but not to disclose the identity nor affiliation of any speaker or other participant. This is in contrast to meetings held "on the record," in which all names and affiliations are fair game for disclosure.

      FOIA is Freedom Of Information Act

      The "Wayback Machine" at the Internet Archive is a

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:17AM (#41967609) Homepage Journal

    And it's interesting. Apparently, the Beeb decided that the overwheling evidence of climate change and global warming rendered dissenting views not only null, but dangerous, in that these dissents would only impede what is necessary action, and are either specious, disingenuous, false, or all of the preceding. So the BBC essentially wanted to suspend even the pretense of impartial reporting and just go all in for acknowledging man-caused climate change as fact.

    Now, it may well be, but this decision had the effect of marginalizing opposing points of vew, on the BBC, to the point that there would be NO dissent.

    I wonder if there are any other issues that the Beeb (affectionately referred to as 'Auntie' in the Register article referenced, and also by some of those Brits old enough to suspect the Beeb is less than honorable in some areas) would similarly suspend impartiaility (sometimes considered a foundation of journalism, so therefore suspending the practice of 'journalism' in reference to these issues) and thereby become essentially the mouthpiece of one side or the other in a dispute? Other than the Israel/Palestine conflict, Islamic terrorism, and perhaps global crony capitalism, I can't thing of a thing.

    Ssadly, the BBC is become just another media outlet, adding to the spew of whatever meme is advantageous to the powers that be. Those powers, for those of you at home scoring in pen, do not include us.

    And of course, the BBC would prefer to not even be asked these questions, much less have to answer them honestly or at least be compelled to admit they even discuss such things. Here in the U.S. we don't have such a problem. Our media outlets are essentially divided into three camps; Leftist, Rightist, and irrelevant. And these outlets are hardly called to account for anything, except by an opposing camp, though the Irrelevants tend to question everything, even themselves, perpetuating their irrelevancy. You know which outlets belong to which camps, right? Ok, score this one in pencil until you get time to review the action and come to a better decision...

    • by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:04AM (#41968313) Homepage
      Impartiality does not mean blindly reciting the viewpoints of opposing sides in any debate (something the BBC are already wont to do).
    • I would expect that they'd suspend impartiality regarding spherical vs flat earth, or gravity vs intelligent falling too. At some point you have to decide that when the vast majority of scientists in the field support one conclusion that giving equal air time to the very few who don't agree is not appropriate. Otherwise you do a disservice to your audience.
    • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @11:42AM (#41968891)

      I'm struggling to understand how, if there is overwhelming evidence for climate change, that you've reached the conclusion that they've suspended impartiality.

      Being impartial does not mean representing invalid views just because every man and his dog wants their say, it's about being impartial and deciding what to report.

      If they approached the topic impartially and decided impartially that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of climate change being a real actual problem, and that that's what they should report, they don't suddenly become impartial for ignoring counter arguments when those counter arguments hold no merit. If they were ignoring a legitimate counter argument based on scientific fact then you'd be right, but that's not the issue here. To date there are still no valid peer reviewed scientific studies to the contrary nor even any investigations by those against the climate change idea proving convincingly that the whole thing may be a hoax. The BBC has however given air time to these people regardless for what it's worth, you only have to listen to Jeremy Clarkson for 5 minutes for example.

      What you're effectively saying is that for every David Attenbrough or Brian Cox documentary they broadcast based on scientific fact they should produce a documentary from young earth creationists denying the theory of evolution and just generally spouting bollocks.

      Sorry but that's fucking stupid. Being impartial doesn't require you to broadcast outright bullshit, it has to at least have some solid backing evidence, and therein lies the problem for climate change deniers - they don't have any. The only time this doesn't hold true is for opinion peices - i.e. who is right in the Israel/Palestine conflict? but climate change isn't based merely on opinion as much as the denialists like to think so, it's science and hence based heavily on fact.

  • A clown who makes up words to try to hide the fact he has no idea what he is talking about.

    The case was about if the BBC has the right to protect it's journalistic sources or must it disclose them to a freedom of information request.

    • by samjam (256347)

      They were hardly journalistic sources, they were policy makers!

      The case was not about whether the BBC has a right to protect it's journalistic sources (it is) but whether the right to protect those sources allows them to with-hold these names. Apparently it does but only if the BBC is considered as a private body despite it's public funding.

      However, now the names are revealed the BBC has harder questions to answer as it can now hardly claim sound scientific reasons for abandoning impartiality, and this is w

  • by ribuck (943217) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @10:35AM (#41967871) Homepage

    I love how the list of attendees includes Jon Plowman, Head of Comedy.

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