Rumours that former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore is being considered as a potential candidate to chair the BBC have been met with condemnation over the Conservative peer’s views on climate change.
A long-time critic of the BBC, Lord Moore has frequently dismissed concerns about the impact of rising emissions on the climate, arguing in an appearance on Question Time that “a sort of project fear” was being promoted around the issue.
Professor Steve Jones, a geneticist who was commissioned to conduct a review of the public broadcaster’s science coverage in 2011, is among those expressing concerns about the possible appointment. The report criticised the BBC for providing “false balance” on scientific fields such as climate change.
He said it was “depressing but predictable” that a “newly ennobled and contrarian non-scientist” was being considered.
“Perhaps this is part of the universal sneer with which the present government treats the national broadcaster,” he added.
Last year, Moore claimed climate “alarmists” were aiming for “unprecedented government control and the relative impoverishment of western societies”. Over the Christmas holidays, he guest-edited an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme during which he accused its environment analyst Roger Harrabin of bias.
The pro-Brexit commentator and recently appointed peer wrote in 2017 that leaving the EU would mean the UK could “copy [Donald] Trump’s bonfire of controls, igniting it with good old fossil fuels”.
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Since 2015, Moore has been a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a charity set up by former Chancellor Nigel Lawson that describes itself as “open-minded on the contested science of global warming” and “deeply concerned” about the costs of climate policies.
Dr James Painter, Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, said Moore’s views on climate “would seem to be out of kilter with the BBC’s current direction of travel”, pointing to its increased climate coverage and decision to minimise what he called the “unjustified presence of sceptical voices on its airwaves”.
Painter highlighted research from the Reuters Institute showing Moore’s Telegraph newspaper group had “frequently given a platform to climate sceptics, particularly in its opinion columns.”
Environmental journalist and BBC presenter Lucy Siegle also expressed surprise at the rumours, telling DeSmog it was “astonishing to suggest at this juncture in the nature and climate crisis that Mr Moore who thanks Trump for ‘breaking the spell of climate change mania’ should be chairman.”
“If he is so ideologically opposed to settled science, the fact that the BBC has a duty, responsibility and opportunity to increase and deepen its coverage of the dual crises in nature and climate will presumably put him in a very serious bind psychologically,” she said.
Former Green Party leader and peer Natalie Bennett said a “respected, independent public broadcaster” was a “crucial resource at any time, but particularly now in light of the Covid pandemic and the climate emergency and nature crisis”.
“To put at its head a partisan figure who belongs to an extremist cult of climate change deniers would be a huge blow to an institution these islands urgently need to be functioning well,” she said.
Campaign group Extinction Rebellion similarly condemned the move, claiming Moore was “singularly unsuited to lead an organisation whose mission is to educate and inform” and that it would be a “sorry day for informed debate, critical thinking and the health of the nation should his appointment go ahead.”
Charles Moore has been contacted for comment.
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