BBC Radio 4 broke impartiality rules by failing to sufficiently challenge climate change denier Nigel Lawson’s controversial claims in an interview, the broadcasting watchdog has ruled.
Lord Lawson appeared on a Radio 4 programme last summer denying the concept of climate change, which prompted complaints from the Green party, and prominent scientists Brian Cox and Jim Al-Khalili, who said it was “irresponsible and highly misleading” to imply there was still a debate around the science supporting it.
The Today programme featured five interviews on climate change prompted by the release of former US vice-president Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Sequel, the follow-up to 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth, each conducted by presenter Justin Webb.
Lawson, a former chancellor of the exchequer in Margaret Thatcher’s government, made claims including that “all the experts say there hasn’t been” an increase in extreme weather events. He said the Independent Panel on Climate Change “concedes” this, and that, according to official figures, “during this past 10 years … average world temperature has slightly declined”.
Ofcom received two complaints that the interview broke the UK broadcasting rule 5.1, which states that “news, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality”.
“Neither statement was correct, or sufficiently challenged during the interview or subsequently during the programme,” said the Ofcom ruling.
The BBC said it had publicly acknowledged that “some of Lord Lawson’s statements went beyond the intended scope of the interview and he was allowed to make inaccurate assertions which should have been challenged”.
Ofcom was not impressed that a previous appearance on the Today programme in 2014 by Lawson, who founded the Global Warming Policy Foundation, resulted in an internal BBC investigation and ruling that found the same failure to properly challenge his views.
“We found that statements made about the science of climate change were not challenged sufficiently during this interview, which meant the programme was not duly accurate,” said a spokeswoman for Ofcom. “We’ve told the BBC we are concerned that this was the second incident of this nature, and on the same programme.”