By James Dacey
The impartiality of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)’s science coverage is set to be investigated by the BBC Trust. I caught up with a member of that trust who tells me the review comes as scientific issues are becoming increasingly controversial.
As well as being the largest broadcasting corporation in the world, the BBC is also a public service, funded principally by the licence fee paid by UK households. Given its cultural authority, people often refer to the corporation jokingly as “Auntie”, from the old-fashioned expression “Auntie knows best”. The British public expect high quality, objective broadcasts from the BBC that educate as well as entertain.
To help maintain standards, the BBC Trust was created to draw up company strategy as well as to guard the BBC from undue political or commercial pressure. In the case of certain controversial issues, the trust will carry out an independent review of coverage across its all its media outlets including the BBC World Service.
For this latest review, “science” is defined to include all the natural sciences, as well as those aspects of technology, medicine and the environment that entail scientific statements, research findings or other claims made by scientists.
It is not yet clear who will chair the review, but the process will involve consulatation with a range of stakeholders including members of the scientific community. “We are always open to feedback from working scientists, as it is vital that we get everything correct especially when it involves controversial issues like climate science,” says a spokesperson for the BBC Trust.
The spokesperson told physicsworld.com that the review is not a response to specific complaints but a realization that science is becoming increasingly intertwined with other issues that affect people’s everyday lives.
The Trust will reveal further details about the process of the review within the next couple of months and the findings will be published in 2011.
Previous areas of BBC coverage that have been reviewed by the BBC Trust include business coverage (2007) and the political coverage of the four nations in the UK – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (2008).