Friday, March 19, 2010

Update: Climate time lie queries on going

COMMENT: ABC Audience and consumer affairs appear to have finalised their deliberations regarding potential bias with a number of items from the ABC's web presentation "A journey through climate history" -(see below). In our view the suggestion that the content of this particular web presentation has been balanced by debate elsewhere on the ABC is not merited. Without the proposed amendments there remains significant potential that viewers of the web presentation will be mislead by its content. As such we have referred the complaint on to the ABC Complaints Review Executive.

Related posts include:
A climate time lie-ABC post corrections but questions remainClimate time line or time lie?

'A Journey through Climate History' - concerns of bias

Audience & Consumer Affairs has now investigated the concerns of bias raised in your correspondence to the CRE.

As explained in previous correspondence, 'A Journey through Climate History' is categorised as topical and factual content and is required to adhere to the requirements of section 7 of the Editorial Policies. It is not subject to any specific requirement to avoid bias or achieve balance. However, it is subject to section 7.4.1 of the Editorial Policies, which states as follows:

"The ABC is committed to impartiality: where topical and factual content deals with a matter of contention or public debate, a diversity of principal relevant perspectives should be demonstrated across a network or platform in an appropriate timeframe."

We have considered the issues numbered 4, 6, 10 and 11 against this requirement. Additionally, as issue 6 relates to the viewpoints represented in links, we have considered it against section 18.6 of the Editorial Policies, which states as follows:

"When providing links, ABC Online will aim to link to sites representing a range of views. The inclusion, placement and commentary for all links to external web sites will be at the discretion of the ABC. ABC Online is not, and should not be seen to be, dependent on commercial or other interests."

I will address each issue in turn below:

4. I note your view that the Ordovician ice age should be included in the timeline "to provide readers with a more balanced picture of the role of CO2 on climate". Audience & Consumer Affairs acknowledges that the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate change is a matter of some contention within the community. However, in our view a wide range of perspectives has been presented on this subject across the ABC Online platform in recent times, and there was no requirement for the timeline to include the Ordovician ice age in order for platform impartiality to be achieved.

6. I understand you consider that the links provided in the 'Links to more information' section of the Medieval Warm Period entry "bias one side of the debate". The section includes three links: one to the Wikipedia entry about the Medieval Warm Period; one to an article entitled 'Weren’t temperatures warmer than today during the “Medieval Warm Period”?' on the website RealClimate; and one to an article by Dr Ron Nielsen entitled 'Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age Myths'.

Audience & Consumer Affairs does not consider that the provision of links to external websites amounts to the presentation of perspectives for the purposes of section 7.4.1 of the Editorial Policies. Consequently, in our view, the absence of the particular links to which you refer cannot amount to any breach of section 7.4.1.

Having regard to the content of the three sites, Audience & Consumer Affairs considers that a range of views is represented, in accordance with section 18.6 of the Editorial Policies. Although other viewpoints exist on the Medieval Warm Period, such as those of expressed on the CO2 Science website to which you refer, it is not a requirement of section 18.6 for every viewpoint to be represented when links are provided.

10. In your letter to the CRE, you suggest that the manner in which An Inconvenient Truth and The Great Global Warming Swindle are treated in the timeline is unequal and unreasonable, and in your email of 8 March you refer to this treatment as "an example of biased, or unbalanced treatment of disparate viewpoints". Section 7.4.1 does not impose any requirement on the timeline to treat all subjects equally, or for the entry on An Inconvenient Truth to mention the errors found in the Dimmock case in order to 'balance' the Ofcom inquiry reference in the entry on The Great Global Warming Swindle. Notwithstanding this, it is relevant to note that a range of perspectives on both An Inconvenient Truth and The Great Global Warming Swindle is available on ABC Online:

11. I note your view that the failure to include the NIPCC report in the timeline creates an "overall impression... that the producers of the timeline are biased". Audience & Consumer Affairs does not believe the omission of the NIPCC amounts to any failure to demonstrate a diversity of principal relevant perspectives on any matters of contention or public debate on ABC Online.

For the reasons outlined above, Audience & Consumer Affairs is satisfied that the requirements of section 7.4.1 have been met with respect to the issues you have raised. If you are dissatisfied with this finding and would like to me refer this matter to the CRE for review in conjunction with the current CRE review of your previous complaint about the timeline, please advise by return email and I will be happy to do so.

A copy of this email will be passed on to the CRE.

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