BBC sees off climate-change film legal challenge

The BBC has seen off an 11th hour High Court challenge attempting to prevent broadcast of a documentary about climate change skeptics.

Lord Monckton, one of those featured in Meet the Climate Change Skeptics, had applied for an injunction to stop the programme being aired until it included a full right of reply from him.

Monckton felt he had been “unreasonably treated and misled” and also complained of breach of contract by the programme which was eventually shown on BBC4 last night.

He wanted the programme to include a 500 word statement from him or provide three minutes air time which, he said, was proportionate in the context of a 60-minute film almost exclusively about him.

“What I’m not trying to do is extinguish the BBC’s right to freedom of speech,” he said.

“I was for many years myself a journalist and it is not appropriate to say a programme should not be broadcast. I am merely asking for a right to reply to which I say I am entitled.”

Lord Monckton said he feared the programme would damage to his reputation and carrying a full reply from him would provide some potential remedy.

Desmond Browne QC, for the BBC, production company Fresh One Productions Ltd and film-maker Rupert Murray, said that changes had been made to the film in the light of Lord Monckton’s concerns about accuracy and bias.

The October 2010 contract provided for absolute editorial control by Fresh One and the BBC, there had been advance publicity for tonight’s broadcast and it would be problematic to show it at another time, Browne told the court.

An injunction should not be granted because although the claim was “dressed up” as a claim in contract, the real complaint was one of defamation, Browne claimed.

Justice Tugendhat rejected the application on the basis that the agreement on which Lord Monckton relied lacked the clarity which he argued it had.

The “balance of justice” also favoured refusing to make the order, he added.

The programme filmed Lord Monckton over past year as he travelled across Australia and the United States challenging the proposition that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes climate change and global warming.

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