The BBC’s Sir David Attenborough has crossed a line — and it was not a triple bottom line but more of a mucky moral line on which he is now stuck. The public broadcaster’s Mr. Climate Change failed to reveal the grants he received from the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research while reporting on accusations that the climate change center was manipulating data. Of great concern is the use of the grant money by Sir David Attenborough. Apparently, the funds were used to fund a Real World speaking series for BBC executives.
A BBC journalist explains the conflict of interest to the Daily Mail as follows: ‘The seminars organised by Roger and his friend were part of a process that has effectively stifled all debate within the BBC about man-made global warming. As far as the high-ups are concerned, the science is settled.’ If the allegations are true, it is grievous ethical lapse by the BBC but finding a clear intent on Sir David’s behalf to manipulate the news will not be easy. One must find where exactly the ethical line has been crossed in the mucky puddle of media morality.
It is mucky because we are not aware and in control of the filters that influence what news makes it to print. A lecture series for senior media executives stifling the global warming debate is one such filter. Other examples of potential filters are advertising dollars, private and public funding, think tanks used as news sources, and lobbying. It is a good time to reread Noam Chomsky’s seminal work on this topic Manufacturing Consent.
The filters that affect what environment news makes it to print is the subject of a book I have been working on this year, entitled: EcoEmbargo.