A question of balance?


A group of us members of the university astronomical society visit Herstmonceaux Observatory in Sussex. We travel by coach from Cambridge. We have a great time, and on the way back consume significant quantities of Merrydown, which someone had the foresight to provision us with. One of the most entertaining of our party is an acquaintance, Brian Hoskins, of Trinity Hall. I will not embarrass Brian by saying what actually happened on this journey, but it was nothing disgraceful.


I hear this vaguely familiar voice on BBC Radio 4’s morning Today Programme. It is distinguished Professor Brian Hoskins, chair of the Grantham Institute on climate change, voicing the urgency of the action needed against global warming and climate change. Next, I am horrified to hear the old political bruiser and ex-chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson pontificating about what nonsense is all this stuff about climate change. It is not a fair contest, the experienced media brawler versus the earnest scientist. Lawson was supposedly put up by the BBC in the interests of ‘balance’ – balancing true science against bigoted opinion.


The BBC give Lawson an opportunity to further express his views on climate without scientific challenge. The next April, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom rules that “BBC Radio 4 broke accuracy rules by failing to sufficiently challenge the climate change denier Nigel Lawson’s controversial claims in an interview“.

2021, yesterday

The Meteorological Office reports on the Today programme that recent extreme weather events were undoubtedly caused by man-made climate change. No so-called ‘balancing viewpoints’ are expressed. The evidence is now fully in.


Interestingly, the other viewpoint commonly expressed by Lawson and other right-wing zealots around the same time was the importance of Brexit to sever the UK from the European Union. We don’t yet have the full evidence, but years of ill-tempered arguing, recent UK economic performance and the intractable situation in Northern Ireland suggest that the realisation, that this too was cloud cuckoo land, is not too far away now.

3 thoughts on “A question of balance?

  1. I only met Hoskins once – nice smile – and I’ve no intention of sharing the rest of the Merrydown story, having been a victim of this innocent-soundng tipple. But I did hear Bruiser Lawson laying into him in the above-mentioned BBC interview in 2014 and was horrified that Lawson’s ill-mannered, bulldozing tactics, along with his viewpoints, were not challenged at the time. It’s right that his nasty, rude behaviour and incorrect views on climate change were eventually challenged and he was found wanting. As was the BBC who sanctioned this. He also shoved off to live in France making himself an accomplished hypocrite by voting for Brexit and choosing to live in an EU country.

    The BBC are finally catching up with the severity of climate change – it’s taken at least 30 years for this to happen. Doddering old “Auntie” doesn’t come out of this too well either.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My “Like” isn’t really a “Like”. I’m surprised that the BBC pulled (pulls?) stunts like that. Is that unusual or standard practice. We watch BBC World News or Outsource every night; I’ll have to listen with more scepticism. I couldn’t agree more re either the climate change point or the Brexit point.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Jane. BBC News is often good and fair minded compared to many news media. However, it is very wedded to the current establishment zeitgeist, and the UK establishment has always been a closet climate change denier, hence the airtime given to Lawson et al. Fortunately, parts of the BBC have also been leading propagators of the needed change, such as in the programmes of David Attenborough. So the BBC scorecard is very mixed. It’s wise to stay a little sceptical of news media, even the Beeb!

      Liked by 2 people

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