The BBC recently shared with staff its guidelines for reporting on climate change, UK climate news site Carbon Brief reported. The BBC also is offering training for staff, according to the memo from its director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth.
The BBC declined to comment to iMediaEthics on the record about the guidance and Carbon Brief report.
“With this in mind, we are offering all editorial staff new training for reporting on climate change,” Unsworth wrote. “The one hour course covers the latest science, policy, research, and misconceptions to challenge, giving you confidence to cover the topic accurately and knowledgeably.”
Editorial policy dictates that “if the science proves it we should report it,” and it is important to clearly say what is backed by science versus speculation. In addition, the BBC instructs staff to avoid “False balance,” noting that news reports don’t “need to include outright deniers of climate change.”
“Climate change has been a difficult subject for the BBC, and we get coverage of it wrong too often,” the guidance says. “The climate science community is clear that humans have changed the climate, but specifically how is more difficult to evidence. For instance, there is very high confidence that there will be more extreme events – floods, droughts, heatwaves etc. – but attributing an individual event, such as the UK’s winter floods in 2013/2014, to climate change is much less certain.”
The BBC also advises labeling and identifying any affiliations of guests or commentators.
Further, the guidance dictates: “To achieve impartiality, you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday. The referee has spoken. However, the BBC does not exclude any shade of opinion from its output, and with appropriate challenge from a knowledgeable interviewer, there may be occasions to hear from a denier.”