Today editor says programme should reflect views of pub climate-change sceptics

The editor of Today has defended his decision to invite Lord Lawson on to his programme to speak about climate change despite criticism from the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit.

Last week, Lawson, the former chancellor of the exchequer, said he felt he had been banned by the corporation after Today was criticised for airing a discussion in which he argued with the chairman of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change about the causes of last winter’s UK flooding and storms.

In the interview Lawson, founder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, questioned whether there has been climate warming in recent years and whether cutting carbon emissions in the UK was an appropriate response.

This led to a flood of complaints to the BBC from many arguing that minority views on global warming should not be given equal prominence to the majority who believe climate change is man-made.

Last week head of the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit Fraser Steel said in a draft ruling: “Minority opinions and sceptical views should not be treated as if it were on an equal footing with the scientific consensus. 

“Lord Lawson's views are not supported by the evidence from computer modelling and scientific research and I don't believe this was made sufficiently clear to the audience.”

But, in an interview with The Guardian, Today editor Jamie Angus said: “The BBC can’t say, ‘we aren’t going to put that point of view on air because scientists tell us it’s not right’…

“People always raise flat earth at this point, but if you go into a pub on Oxford Street you won’t find anyone who says the earth is flat, but you will probably find a couple of people who are unconvinced by the science on climate change. Clearly the BBC has to reflect what is a relatively settled view of the majority of scientists … but absolutely should not squeeze out alternative points of view, and we haven’t.”

In the interview, Angus also spoke of the changes he has sought to bring to Today since taking charge in September last year – including employing a dedicated sports producer. He suggested that the programme has “too often… ghettoised sport in the sports desk [hourly bulletin]”.

He said he had also tried to embrace “the more poppy end of culture” – “not just high-end theatre and a bit of opera [but] popular music, TV box sets, tablets [and] the internet”.

After bringing Mishal Husain to Today last year, Angus now has six presenters – Husain, John Humphrys, Evan Davis, Sarah Montague, Justin Webb and James Naughtie, who also currently works on Good Morning Scotland in the run-up to the Scottish referendum – filling 12 presenter slots a week.

But Angus said he is “not anticipating further changes” despite widespread cuts – around 600 redundancies – expected to be announced across the BBC News and Radio divisions this month.

“We have got enough work for six presenters,” he told The Guardian. “It goes wider than just presenting, they do quite a lot of reporting and with the referendum and general election next year I have got more demands than ever for presenters to be on the road.”

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