A response to Channel 4’s head of documentaries, Hamish Mykura
By George Monbiot. Posted on Monbiot.com, 24th July 2008
Hamish Mykura has done something quite impressive: he has managed to pack almost as many distortions and misrepresentations into his response(1) to my article about Channel 4 as Martin Durkin crammed into The Great Global Warming Swindle.
The broadcasting regulator Ofcom has not “agreed” that “none of the scientific data” in the film “was materially misleading”. What it said was that the audience was not “misled in a manner that would have led to actual or potential harm.”(2) Ofcom made it clear that it has no mandate to determine whether or not the data were accurate. As the ruling showed, it would be impossible for the Swindle to have broken Ofcom’s accuracy guidelines, because, while news programmes must be accurate, “there is no such requirement for other types of programming, including factual programmes of this type.” The regulator would have reached the same conclusion had the programme announced that the moon was made of blue cheese.
Mykura contends that the allegation that 10 of the film’s protagonists have been paid by fossil fuel companies or lobby groups funded by such companies “is a gross exaggeration that can be traced to blog gossip.” In fact in all ten cases the evidence comes from primary sources, such as ExxonMobil’s annual accounts and a leaked document from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, which shows that one of the programme’s contributors has been paid $100,000 by that organisation alone to produce arguments beneficial to coal-fired power generators(3). Channel 4’s unwillingness to research its contributors’ hidden financial interests suggests that it is happy to be duped by the fossil fuel industries.
But Mykura’s worst misrepresentation is his charge that the people who complained about this programme want to shut down debate. This is a grotesque self-justification. Critics like me recognise that Channel 4 is entitled to its own opinions. But it is not entitled to its own facts. As a public service broadcaster it does not have the right to manipulate graphs, invent histories, alter scientific evidence or produce a film which, in the words of one of its contributors, was “as close to pure propaganda as anything since World War Two”(4).
2. Ofcom, 21st July 2008. Broadcast Bulletin, Issue 114. http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/prog_cb/obb114/issue114.pdf
3. IREA, 17th July 2006. Letter from Stanley R Lewandowski Jr, General Manager. http://www.desmogblog.com/files/IREA-memo.pdf
4. Carl Wunsch, quoted by Ben Goldacre and David Adam, 11th March 2007. Climate scientist ‘duped to deny global warming’. The Observer.