The Great Global Warming Swindle: OFCOM findings

I’ve just heard Hamish Mykura, head of documentaries at Channel 4, on The World at One, discussing Ofcom’s findings following complaints about the film ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle.’ He was proclaiming that while Ofcom found the programme in breach of the Broadcasting Code with regards to reflecting a range of views, it did not find that it ‘materially misled’ the audience.

As Mykura well knows, that’s not how this game works. In fact, I’d suggest that it’s both misleading of him and a misrepresentation of Ofcom’s position to present its findings in those terms. To quote Ofcom directly:

Whilst Ofcom is required by the 2003 Act to set standards to ensure that news programmes are reported with “due accuracy” there is no such requirement for other types of programming, including factual programmes of this type.

That is: Ofcom haven’t ruled on the factual accuracy of the programme, since they don’t believe they have the power to. Which makes sense, actually – public service broadcasters have a responsibility (requirement, actually) to reflect the views of minority groups in society. Including anthropogenic climate change-denying scientists, I suppose.

The Code relating to misleading the audience is explained thus:

“Ofcom is required to guard against harmful or offensive material, and it is possible that actual or potential harm and/or offence may be the result of misleading material in relation to the representation of factual issues. This rule is therefore designed to deal with content which materially misleads the audience so as to cause harm or offence.”

To paraphrase: the test here is whether the film-maker was trying to offend the viewer. That’s a very high standard indeed.

It’s worth reading the Ofcom ruling in full, actually. It’s very subtle, and a lovely example of a regulator walking a tightrope between criticising broadcasters for being arses, and avoiding setting precedents that might have freedom of speech implications.

But their findings are not a vindication of the film, as Mykura appeared to be claiming. Ofcom did not find evidence that the film set out to cause harm or offence, but that’s all one can say.

My opinion remains that it was a nasty little film of twisted logic. Bad journalism; arguably good TV; wholly irrelevant to the wider global warming debate. I’m slightly surprised that so many people took it so seriously, particularly those who think it supports their position. What, they suddenly believe the rubbish they see on television?

That’s a bit selective of them, isn’t it?

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