Page last updated at 00:53 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 01:53 UK

Ruling expected on climate film

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC chairman
The Nobel-prizewinning IPCC is among the bodies that lodged complaints

Media regulator Ofcom is due to decide whether a Channel 4 documentary broke rules on accuracy and fairness.

The Great Global Warming Swindle attracted various complaints, including claims it misled contributors.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the former UK government chief scientific adviser Sir David King were among the complainants.

Channel 4 said it aired the documentary to demonstrate that the debate on climate change was not over.

Its key contention was that the increase in atmospheric temperatures observed since the 1970s was not primarily caused by emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.

First aired by Channel 4 in March 2007, the documentary has since reportedly been sold to 21 countries and distributed on DVD.

What we now have is an out-and-out propaganda piece, in which there is not even a gesture toward balance
Dr Carl Wunsch

Among discussion groups of "climate sceptics", it is sometimes cited as a counter to Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth and has been credited with infuencing public opinion on the causes of modern-day climate change.

An Ipsos Mori survey in the UK last month concluded: "Many believe leading scientists remain undecided on the exact causes of climate change".

Distinguished climate scientists, including former IPCC chairman Sir John Houghton, Professor Peter Cox from the UK Met Office, and Professor Brian Hoskins from Reading University, signed a letter to production company WagTV alleging that the film "misrepresented both the scientific evidence and the interpretations of researchers that have been documented in the scientific literature".

'Propaganda piece'

Ofcom will rule whether the programme broke two parts of its broadcasting code, on accuracy and fairness.

Leaks to newspapers last week indicated that Sir David's fairness complaint - that the programme attributed comments to him that he had not made, and did not allow him a chance to reply - would be upheld.

It is also believed Ofcom will back a complaint from Carl Wunsch, an oceanographer interviewed for the programme, that he was misled as to its intent.

Dr Wunsch, from the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, said he believed he was being asked to take part in a programme that would "discuss in a balanced way the complicated elements of understanding of climate change", but "what we now have is an out-and-out propaganda piece, in which there is not even a gesture toward balance".

The accuracy code, meanwhile, includes an instruction that "a personal view or authored programme or item must be clearly signalled to the audience at the outset", and that programmes covering issues of political controversy must not give "undue prominence" to any particular point of view.

While some of the complaints received by Ofcom are short and straightforward, one group assembled a 188-page document alleging 137 breaches of the Broadcasting Code.

The Ofcom ruling is expected at about 1100 BST on Monday.

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