GREEN BIAS: A previous blog (April 7) highlighted that BBC2’s Newsnight had downplayed serious concerns about the role of the UK and the EU’s green energy regime in threatening the viability of the steel industry. Radio 4’s Today entered the fray the next day with an interview of Femke de Jong, the EU policy director of an organisation called Carbon Market Watch (a BBC website version of the story is here). She maintained that Tata steel was, in effect, being economical with the truth in claiming that EU green policy was a handicap; on the contrary, it had received £700m over six years through the EU’s Energy Trading Scheme (ETS) by being allocated more ‘carbon credits’ than it required – it was subsequently able to sell them. Today returned to the subject the following day (Saturday), this time with a two-handed interview featuring Jeremy Nicholson, spokesman for the Energy Intensive Users’ Group (EIUG) and former climate change minister Greg Barker, who was said now to be president of the British Photovoltaic Association. Nicholson had the opportunity to say that his group strongly disagreed with claims that the steel industry was not handicapped by green policies, and particularly electricity prices. Mr Barker – who spoke for the lion’s share of the sequence – said steel manufacturers could apply for rebates, and high energy prices were therefore not an issue. Thus over two days, there were two features in which – hot on the tail of the Newsnight analysis – the over-riding weight of opinion was that the EU was not to blame for the steel industry’s woes. Nicholson could have been asked much more, but was not. A major issue is in the production. First, not made properly clear to listeners was that Carbon Market Watch is a million miles from being a disinterested party. Its website makes it clear that it wants much tougher carbon dioxide emissions restrictions, and had arrived at the calculations about Tata’s alleged ETS windfalls in connection with its agenda of jacking up energy prices to the maximum extent. Tata itself strongly denies its claims about windfalls, as does the airline industry (which Carbon Market Watch (CMW) also wants to be hit with higher carbon taxes). Another point about CMW is that it is funded by the EU, through the European Commission’s Life programme, the EU’s main environmental fund which over the years has disbursed billions of euros on campaigns). Second, Greg Baker’s current role was said only to be chairman of the British Photovoltaic Association. But he is much more than that in the field of climate alarmism, most notably, a director of The Climate Group, an international organisation which is working on pressuring governments throughout the world to adopt green policies. Its website declares:
‘We work internationally with our coalition of companies, states, regions, cities and public figures on innovative programs around the world. By delivering evidence of success through our pilots and programs, we are inspiring leadership and driving the transformative change that is needed for a clean revolution.’
What’s the main point here? That the BBC’s approach to the Tata steel story continues to be fundamentally distorted and lacking in impartiality. The Today programme gave much stronger prominence to guests who argued that Tata was not hit by EU-related energy prices to the extent claimed, and indeed was substantially benefitting from the Commission’s carbon trading scheme. Both features could have signposted that the ‘green’ advocates (Barker and De Jong) were deeply biased observers who would be expected to play down the impact of the EU’s policies in triggering Tata’s woes. Further, the programme chose to amplify CMW’s allegations about Tata without subjecting them to adequate challenge. Tata’s denial that it is benefitting from the EU’s ETS scheme was included in the BBC website version of the story, but not on Today. This, overall, was therefore shoddy and unbalanced journalism on a matter of national importance. Further, the treatment was pro-EU in that CMW’s stance – and that of Greg Barker – amounted to a defence of high energy costs under the EU’s green targets and was given most prominence.