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Richard Black: International Man Of Mystery – Part 2

January 11, 2012

In part one of Richard Black: International Man Of Mystery, I gave a bit of background on where I thought the unhealthy relationships and connections are formed that seem to influence BBC climate journalism.  In part two I want to focus on the activities of Richard Black specifically.

The BBC must do all it can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality in all relevant output.”

BBC Royal Charter Agreement 2006.

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Welcome To Bonn-Con.

The Bonn Conference (Solutions For The Green Economy) was held 16-19th November 2011. Yes I know – Germany, again. An internal draft conference schedule can be downloaded here (MS Word).
“Organized under the auspices of Germany’s Federal Development Ministry (BMZ) and Federal Environment Ministry (BMU), the conference is a step in the run-up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio plus 20”) scheduled for 2012.”
Almost immediately, the name sprung out at me:

Morning

1) Web Session “The Human Rights Perspective”

Moderator:               NN (BBC) Richard Black

So we have a very recent international conference in Bonn, where for some reason a BBC journalist is again moderating discussions between key governmental and NGO players and again discussing how to profit from the climate change scare, sorry I mean saving the world with the “green economy”.  Does this strike you as something as journalist, especially one from the BBC, a publically-fuunded organisation, who pride themselves on impartiality and avoiding conflicts of interest, should be doing?

There is also someone else there, now familiar to those who read part one, as an attendee. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).  Again, evidence of Richard rubbing shoulders with those at the very top of the climate debate, not once, but on a regular basis.

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Can’t See The Wood For The Trees.

Our International Man Of Mystery next pops up in Durban (COP17) during early December 2011.  Richard was there covering the inevitable car crash for the BBC.  However, he was not so busy he could not jump into the moderators chair yet again:

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Global updates on forests and climate change (Forest Day 5)

14.45–15.30
Olive 1

The UN climate negotiations involve a wide range of forest nations presenting a wide range of proposals for how forests can be harnessed for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Forest Day 5 was a platform for bringing these negotiators and world leaders together with forest stakeholders to share perspectives and priorities.

Influential leaders from key sectors and forest regions of the world presented their views, focusing on the challenges and opportunities presented by their own geographical, social and political context, and sharing lessons learned.

Moderator
Richard Black, BBC Environment Correspondent, United Kingdom

Speakers

  • Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, United Kingdom
  • Rachel Kyte, Vice President of Sustainable Development, World Bank
  • Update on the UNFCCC Negotiations
    Tony La Viña, Ateneo School of Government, Ateneo de Manila University, Phillipines
  • Update from the Governors Climate and Forests Task Force
    Odigha Odigha, Chairman, Cross River State Forestry Commission, Nigeria

If you want to actually watch him moderating the session, then you can on YouTube.  It only has 56 views so far, but I suspect that will creep up a bit now. It is a splendid one hour long video. He even says he is “not there as a journalist”.  I would like to challenge that statement, as he was blatantly there on the British public’s money covering a different event, the Durban conference, for the BBC. So he was there as a journalist and was being paid to be out there as one, he was NOT in South Africa as a private individual.

Here we have clear evidence that Richard, again, is not just a journalist.  Time and time again he is found at the heart of he machine, rubbing shoulders with the policy makers and shapers. We know he was there covering COP17 for the BBC, but here we have him, right in the middle of doing his paid job, chairing meetings! If Richard had not been in Durban covering the event for the BBC, would he have been in those sessions?  Would he have travelled to South Africa under his own steam, or are the British license fee payers bascially funding his participation?

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But wait! Here he is again, on the 6th December in Durban, moderating yet another session:


LUNCH DISCUSSION ON COP17.


“One of the most striking new voices on climate change“ – BBC News on the Climate Vulnerable Forum
The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) was launched in November 2009 just prior to COP15 when 11 of the most
vulnerable countries met to boost convergence and urgency ahead of Copenhagen. The CVF generated new
momentum just prior to the Durban talks with a ministerial meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where 19 vulnerable
countries adopted a landmark 14-point Declaration expressing the determination of its members to “Act to bring
about a resolution to the global menace of climate change”. The CVF Lunch Discussion on COP17 is an open
platform where Forum members and other stakeholders can contribute to the consensus-building process that
continues to be essential for ambitious outcomes in Durban.
Date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Time: 11:00 – 13:00 pm (lunch to be served)
Location: Moses Mabhida Stadium Presidential Atrium (World Cup Stadium)
Transport: Arranged shuttle from North Beach ICC gate leaving at11:00 and two return shuttles at
12:40 and 13:25
RSVP: Mr. Daniel Barnes at dbarnes@daraint.org or mobile: 0724933177
Moderator:
Mr. Richard Black, Environment Correspondent, BBC News.
Ministerial Discussants:
H.E. Dr. Hasan Mahmud – Minister for Environment and Forests, Bangladesh
H.E. Mr. René Castro– Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica
H.E. Mr. Mohamed Aslam – Minister for the Environment, Maldives
H.E. Mr. Stanislas Kamanzi – Minister of Natural Resources, Rwanda
High-Level and Expert Interventions:
Dr. Q.K. Ahmad – Chairperson: PKSF, Bangladesh
Mr. Simon Maxwell – Executive Chairmen: Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

On two occasions within 3 days of each other, while covering the COP17 conference for the BBC, we have evidence of Richard Black actually chairing meetings between key players in the climate debate. It is also nice to see Richard “bigging up” his friends in the Climate Vulnerable Forum in one of his articles:

“One of the most striking new voices on climate change that’s emerged since the UN summit in Copenhagen two years ago is the Climate Vulnerable Forum.”

What a great newsbite.  Wonder if anyone used it?  Oh yes they did.  On this page of the daraint.org website to be precise.  Daraint, I should point out, organised the Climate Vulnerable Forum meeting at COP17 that Richard chaired. So Richard bigs up the CVF, they then use that quote on their official site and then he chairs a meeting for them.  How lucky that he independently made such a soundbite that they could use. Richard also champions those countries again in a piece on 8th December.

We also have a “near miss”.  According to this early agenda document, Richard was meant to moderate another meeting, during “Africa Day” held on 8th December. However the write-up, on the AFDB website, shows Richard did not take the session in the end. Perhaps he needed a rest? Even though he did not take the session, it shows that he was “penciled in” for it.

One delicious little sideline irony of Richard’s jaunt around the Durban debating circuit,  is that I lodged a complaint to the BBC at the time about an unrelated article from Mr Black.  In a response,  the following was said:

Richard replied to you from Durban, where he was clearly busy on other matters.

Clearly he was busy.  Busy chairing meetings.

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Whale I’ll Be Damned….

The more I dug, the more I found.  Here is Richard chairing a meeting of the “Second Pew Whale Symposium” in 2008.

Now I have no problem with Richard wanting to save whales, or participating in a meeting about them. The issue in this instance is that it is the BBC credentials that are putting him in that chair.  If he was Richard Black, builder, postman or shopkeeper would he be chairing that meeting?  Of course not. These people wanted him because he is from the BBC, because it adds legitimacy.  I would suggest this is an abuse of his position and something the BBC should never be allowing to happen. It creates a clear conflict of interests and it brings the BBC firmly into the whaling debate as advocates of a particular point of view in the eyes of anyone who was there, or read about Black’s participation.

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Is This Healthy?

“The conference ‘Rethinking Global Health: Political and practical challenges from foreign and security policy’ will explore global health policy as it intersects with the global political process.
This major international conference is organized in collaboration with the European Council on Global Health.”

This conference took place on 10th and 11th March 2009. Participants for session 6 on the 11th are as follows:

The inter-linkages between climate change and the global health agenda

  • Climate change has become a central focus for national governments, drawing in multiple actors from foreign ministries to treasuries, trade and economic departments. How are governments addressing the inter-linkages between climate change and new challenges to human health worldwide?
  • What are the most likely impacts of climate change on human health – from the impact of desertification on vulnerable populations to the migration of diseases?
  • How might local and donor governments design health “adaptation” strategies within climate change strategies for countries that are at risk?
  • Which parts of the government should take the lead and what roles are private actors (NGOs and business) playing in this process?

10.50 Chair and moderator
Richard Black
Environment Correspondent
BBC News

Discussants

Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum
Specialist in Climate Change and Health
World Health Organization

Sarah Hendry CBE
Director of International and Public Health Delivery
Department of Health, UK

Yanzhong Huang
Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Global Health Studies
John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations
Seton Hall University, USA

Dr Ayoade Oduola (tbc)
Coordinator (Stewardship), Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases
World Health Organization

Dr Atiq Rahman
Executive Director
Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies

Dr Marianne Takki
Policy Officer, Health Threats Unit, DG SANCO
European Commission

Richard it appears is in on everything from global health to whaling.  There couldn’t be more though, could there……?

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More Wood, More Trees…..

Richard seems to pop-up all over the place, moderating and chairing meetings.  Here he is at Chatham house in June 2011 moderating discussion at the 18th Illegal Logging Stakeholder Update.  Yes you read that right he is chairing discussions on illegal logging.  However, do not be fooled.  Reading the main site of the people organising the conference we see:

“The scope for REDD+ – which goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation to include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks – was set out at the UNFCCC 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen in December 2009. While much of the deforestation under consideration is the result of legal land-use change and logging, there is also a significant proportion that is illegal. If avoided deforestation is to become a credible element of an international system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions, forest areas will have to be managed over the very long term and be subject to effective legal enforcement. Considerable amounts of finance will also be required.”

So Richard is chairing meetings that fed into REDD, that then formed part of the discussions at COP17. REDD is also directly linked to carbon trading:

“This review (the Stern review) examines the economic impacts of climate change and explores the economics of stabilising greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. The report suggests that avoided deforestation policies should be shaped at the national level but supported by the international community and explores the role of carbon markets in providing incentives for forest conservation.” – from REDD.net

And there is another name we already know from the top of the tree – Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the Stern review advocating carbon trading, member of the advisory council to Deutsche Bank and a man with his snout in the carbon trading trough  as I outlined a while back.

Yet again, despite the initial lack of an obvious link, we find Richard directly involved in activities that went on to influencing global political and economic decisions in relation to climate change.  Jennifer Morgan must be so proud of him..

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Harrabin & Black: More Than Journalists.

In part one we saw how Roger Harrabin went well beyond what most people would expect a BBC journalist to be getting involved in.  In part two I gave examples of why I think Richard Black is fataly compromised as a journalist.  I have outlined several examples of how Richard, with the full knowledge of the BBC,  must have broken the BBC statement on impartiality and been allowed into circles of influence almost purely due to his status as BBC employee.

The question I ask the BBC and the British people is simply this:

Are Richard’s activities acceptable for a journalist working for a publically-funded organisation?

There is a clear conflict of interest and in my opinion an abuse of his position. He is participating in, and potentially influencing, global policy decisions purely because he is a BBC journalist, which in many countries is viewed as an organisation beyond reproach.  If the BBC is supporting this then it must be right they will think. He is sending a one-sided stream of information to the British taxpayers, and people who trust the BBC globally, clearly influenced by the circles he moves in.  He cannot possible remain objective when he lives and breathes one side of a debate.

In an article from 2007, Richard said:

Of all the accusations made by the vociferous community of climate sceptics, surely the most damaging is that science itself is biased against them.

That was a view I put forward nearly a year ago now in another article for the BBC News website, and nothing has changed my mind since.

The year seems to have brought no diminution of the accusations flying around the blogosphere.

“The research itself is biased,” as one recent blog entry put it.

“Scientists are quick to find what they’re looking for when it means getting more funding out of the government.”

That particular posting gave no evidence to support its claim of bias. I have seen none that did, which made me wonder whether there was any evidence.”

Richard asked for evidence. What I have done here is to outline, supported with clear examples, not why the science is biased, but how the reporting of that science, the politics and the economics behind it,  by Richard Black and the BBC is biased. How can people look objectively at the science when the people reporting on the science have become personally involved in the political process?

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“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

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From → BBC Climate Bias

6 Comments
  1. MangoChutney permalink

    I don’t think there is anything wrong per se with a journalist chairing a meeting – isn’t Jeremy Paxton a journalist? I do however object to the idea of BBC journalists presenting such a one sided view of all things climate. I often sen RB articles supporting sceptic arguments against CO2 driven thermageddon, but I have yet to see him take note of anything that goes against the orthodoxy of AGW

  2. ThePowerofX permalink

    There is nothing unusual about this whatsoever. Michael Burke, Peter Sissons and Jeremy Paxton often chair debates away from the BBC. Adam Curtis too. Richard Black is no different. Indeed, it is their general knowledge that makes these people good mediators.

    The proprietor of this blog appears simply to dislike how Richard Black accepts that Global Warming is a real problem. If your premise (or starting point) is that it’s all a load of hooey, then it’s much easier to see how Black fits in to some imagined conspiracy.

    “Follow the money!!1!” yadda yadda.

    • The fact you do not see it as a problem that a BBC journalist is getting a seat at the right tables because of that fact shows this is lost on you.

  3. MangoChutney permalink

    I may not have been clear in my comment

    I agree a journalist sitting at the top table chairing a one sided meeting on “AGW” is suspect, but a journo chairing a meeting between sceptical scientists and true believers would be acceptable.

  4. michael hart permalink

    A journalist whose personal biases, beliefs, or convictions are as well known as Richard Black’s, has automatically disqualified themselves from moderating on those topics.
    As for his interest in “evidence”, it is difficult to see him being able to question others for appropriate evidence, because he frequently appears to have not asked himself what constitutes appropriate evidence. He goes out looking evidence to support predetermined conclusions. As he has remarked himself, what is not reported can sometimes be the real story.

    He certainly has an interest in environmental activism, but indications of a genuine interest in reporting science is much thinner on the ground.
    [I have complemented him at least once in recent months for writing an article that was both interesting and unusually lacking in propaganda aimed at voters and governmental policies. It was still about climate-proxies though!].

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