Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Of Com ruling: TGGWS broke the rules

The Great Global Warming Swindle has been found to be in breach of principles relating to fairness and impartiality.

Inspite of expressing "some concerns about aspects of this programme as regards the portrayal of factual matters" the report found the programme had not commited factual inaccuracies. This was on a technical diefinition, however, as the Guardian analysis makes clear:

It grouped the complaints about factual accuracy into four categories:

  • The use of graphs·
  • The distortion of the science of climate change·
  • The argument that global warming is used by campaigners to reverse economic growth.
  • The credibility of the programme's contributors – some of whom have been linked to the fossil fuel industry.

On the first two points, Ofcom judged that the programme did not go far enough to cause harm or offence.

It said the third was justified under the right to freedom of expression and was not misleading.

On the credibility of the programme's contributors, Ofcom said such programmes did not have to disclose potential conflicts of interest, and that, in not mentioning them, the programme did not mislead.

On the charge of misleading by omission, Ofcom said it was clear that the programme was attacking a well known, mainstream view, and that viewers would have known this. There is no obligation on such programmes to include a wide range of views. (1)

[My emphasis]

So while the programme was misleading, it was not so to the required (and rather high) standard of causing "harm or offence." While conflicts of interest may existed, it was not required for the programme makers to disclose them. And while the programme makers may have been guilty of misleading by ommission, this was again - technically - not a breach.

Full text here (2) [pdf].

I'm sure there will be a massive attempt by the progreamme makers to spin this as some sort of vindication of their programme - there will be talk of 'minor infractions' and 'slight exaggerations' and so on. But the points noted by OfCom are devastating - they lied, but because we enjoy freedom of speech in this country, that is permitted, so complaints relating to that are not upheld. They distorted and misrepresented people's opinions to fit their agenda, and that is not acceptable, and they have been found to be in breach on that count.
1 - "Global warming documentary: The Ofcom report at a glance" by David Adam, published in The Guardian, 21st of July, 2008. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jul/21/climatechange.carbonemissions)
2 - OfCom Broadcast Bulletin, issue number 114, 21st of July, 2008. Reproduced on The Guardian website. (http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Media/documents/2008/07/21/issue114.pdf)

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