BBC And Climate: News Before Things Happen?

[ UPDATED 22:50 GMT June 15: Andrew Bolt kindly links here and then makes a good point in his blog, with the help of “reader Anthony“, further demonstrating the BBC bias on the topic of AGW: “That’s not reporting, but propagandising. You disagree? Then ask why the BBC reported on a Melbourne protest of a few hundred believers of its preferred green faith, but ignored this Melbourne protest by even more believers of a more traditional one“]

[ UPDATED 23:47 GMT: According to Singapore’s Straits Times, it was “Hundreds of environmental activists” marching in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald focuses on Brisbane and “a crowd of 600“, after reporting that “thousands of environmental activists marched in central Sydney“. Finally, Melbourne-based The Age writes that “The rallies attracted about 6,000 people nationwide“.

That article is timestamped at 6:24PM, or 8:24AM GMT, a little less than 4 hours after Phil Mercer’s piece for the BBC. QED.]

[ UPDATED 13:50 GMT: I have inserted the pictures grabbed earlier today.

There is now an ABC article saying “At a protest rally in central Sydney, streets were blocked off as more than 1,000 people marched through the city streets to the office of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd“. And yes, it mentions just Sydney.

There is also a blog (with a photo) claiming “Thousands marched from Melbourne’s State Library to the Treasury Gardens to demand more action on climate change“.

To be perfectly clear, the point of this blog is not to ask if thousands have marched in Australia against climate change or not. Had the BBC reported manufactured news, that would have been fraud. Instead, the point is to ask on what basis did the BBC find it necessary to rush this kind of news first, and without having had the time to check what they were writing about.

That is not fraud: it is bias. And I do not think the BBC can afford to show bias.]

Australians demand climate action“, writes Phil Mercer from Sydney on the BBC News web pages

Thousands of demonstrators have rallied across Australia to demand greater government action to protect the environment from climate change

BBC report on marching Australians
BBC report on marching Australians

Or have they? Has Mr Mercer written his piece before the fact (could happen), and much worse, before having the information needed to verify the contents of his article?

It is rather strange, for example, that there was no picture of those thousands of people available for the BBC to publish…

Mercer’s article as of now is timestamped as “Page last updated at 04:20 GMT, Saturday, 13 June 2009”. That corresponds to 2:20pm in places like Brisbane and Sydney. The National Climate Emergency Rallies were scheduled for 1pm Brisbane time. I suppose that could put Mercer’s article in the “breaking news” category.

But look now at what else is available on the ‘net about thousands of people marching in Australia. When limited to the past 24 hours, and sorted by time, Google results include only two relevant news articles apart from the BBC’s

Google's web results sorted by date
Google's web results sorted by date
thewest.com.au report on hundreds of Perth marchers
thewest.com.au report on hundreds of Perth marchers
AFP picture of Sydney marchers from Business Recorder
AFP picture of Sydney marchers from Business Recorder

(the Nigeria Best Forum entry is a copy-and-paste from the BBC)

from Nigerian Best Forum blog
from Nigerian Best Forum blog

Notably, the AFP picture cannot be used to judge a crowd’s size. Even more notably, there is nothing as of now from Australian’s sites and blogs about “thousands of people“.

So if there’s no pictures, and the only local report is about “hundreds of people” in one city, where is the BBC picking up its “thousands…across Australia” figure? Why, look at the National Climate Emergency Rallies website:

National Climate Emergency Rally web site
National Climate Emergency Rally web site

On June 13, join thousands of people around the country at the National Climate Emergency Rally. The rally is a vital opportunity to send our governments a united message that the Australian public wants strong, swift and real action to solve the climate crisis

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In summary, BBC’s Phil Mercer’s “news” article has likely been pre-packaged with an “informed guess” using activists’ own estimates made long before any demonstration had taken place.

And it has been rushed up to appear as top “Top Story” in the Science & Environment page just in time for Britons to read early on Saturday morning: before any meaningful check about its content could be done. More: before any other major news media thought is meaningful to report about it. Google News, in fact, shows nothing else apart from what already listed above.

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Now…by what stretch of imagination can an organization rushing itself forward, with pre-packaged rathern than breaking news, present itself as reporting on climate change impartially and without a bias? Were this any other aspect of politics, BBC news could easily be categorized as a political outlet.

Perhaps some Editor over there will have an answer to this…

(note: I have grabbed most of the sites above as PNGs…later today I will insert the relevant pictures)