Setting the record straight

As one of those mentioned in Victoria White’s original article on this issue (‘Prime Time’ and RTÉ are in denial of the truth about climate change, April 3), and in the light of Donogh Diamond’s defence of the programme in question (Existence of climate change never at issue, April 7), I would appreciate an opportunity to comment briefly.

As Ms White reported, I was one of those approached by Prime Time to participate in a panel discussion on the challenge of climate change (in my role as chair of the An Taisce Climate Change Committee); and indeed, like a number of others, I chose not to participate. In the aftermath of the transmission, Mr Diamond contacted me again to express his disappointment that I had declined to engage in the programme ”... based, it seems on the fact that we had one person on the panel who did not share your analysis of the problem.” In responding to this, I was very happy to acknowledge to Mr Diamond that the programme, as actually broadcast, made some very worthwhile contributions to addressing this complex, multi-faceted, topic. However, I also went on to clarify (albeit retrospectively) my own reasons for declining to be involved — clarification which I think is important, but that Mr Diamond chose not to mention in his Examiner article.

So, for the record, I absolutely agree that it is not only the right, but the responsibility, of public service broadcasters to make professional judgements on how best to convey issues of genuine scientific and policy debate to their audiences. However, it is equally the right and responsibility of outside individuals and organisations to sometimes disagree with such judgements; and to express their disagreement as they see fit (for example, by withholding their own participation). In the particular case in point, I personally continue to judge that it was not appropriate for a public service broadcaster to offer a free national media platform to an organisation (the so-called “Global Warming Policy Foundation“, represented on Prime Time by Dr Benny Peiser), 98% of whose funding sources (and therefore sources of potential bias or conflicts of interest) are wholly secret; and even more so, to compound this by not informing viewers of such a manifestly compromised status. I greatly respect the intentions, and indeed integrity, of the Prime Time team: but on this particular judgement call I must continue to respectfully disagree.

Professor Barry McMullin

Executive Dean

Faculty of Engineering and Computing

Dublin City University

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