The BBC is dragged into a row over its coverage of climate change after spending thousands of pounds trying to keep details of an "eco conference" attended by top executives secret
The BBC spent thousands of pounds over six years attempting to “cover up” a climate change seminar credited with shaping its coverage of the environment, it emerged today. Read BBC Climate Change Conference
At least £20,000 was paid out by the corporation battling a Freedom of Information request about the conference that featured lectures by green activists and scientists, it was revealed.
Almost 30 of the BBC’s most senior executives – including the head of TV news and future director-general – attended the event in 2006 which was funded with a grant from the former Labour government.
According to the Mail on Sunday, a senior official admitted that the “seminar had an impact on a broad range of BBC output”, including news reports and a three-part series on the environment and global warming.
The disclosure is likely to fuel claims of a lack of balance surrounding the corporation’s coverage of the issue.
Tony Newbery, 69, a climate blogger, who led the campaign to uncover the details, said: “It is very disappointing that the BBC tried so hard to cover this up.
“It seems clear that this seminar was a means of exposing executives to green propaganda.”But the BBC insisted the conference was just one of a series of seminars staged about topical issues.
It also said that the battle against FOI disclosure was made in line with a policy to keep “information relating to the creation of journalism” out of the public eye.
“Seminars do not set editorial policy,” a spokesman said. “We encourage journalists to attend events aimed at hearing a range of perspectives, from business, science, experts, academics with contrasting views, and people on the front line of issues, as they can help inform wider understanding, as these seminars did.
“There was no agenda from the organisers who recognised the BBC’s rules on impartiality.”
The BBC spent some £20,000 in barristers’ fees over the case although the final total could be much higher.
Scientists speaking at the event included Lord May, former president of the Royal Society, Blake Lee-Harwood, then head of campaigns at Greenpeace, and Ashok Sinha, former director of the group Stop Climate Chaos.
The 28 BBC executives present included George Entwistle, who went on to become director-general, Helen Boaden, current director of BBC radio, and Peter Horrocks, head of global news.
The conference was arranged with the assistance of the International Broadcasting Trust, a lobby group pushing to drive up coverage about the environment and developing world.
According to MoS, it secured funding for the event from the Department for International Development by promising it would influence programme content in favour of green issues.
In its statement, the BBC said: “The IBT is not involved in editorial policy and what they do or don’t say in funding submissions to government is a matter for them."
Read more: Crown Capital Management Jakarta Indonesia