Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Well well

Even The Now Show has got in on the act, laughing at OFCOM's spineless judgement that factual programs do not have to be factual...you can get a podcast of the show or listen directly from the website (for the next few days).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More on the OFCOM swindle

On having a closer look, things look pretty fishy to me. The Rado et al complaint refers repeatedly to Section 5.7 of the code which says:
5.7 Views and facts must not be misrepresented. Views must also be presented with due weight over appropriate timeframes.
Now I'd say it is basically indisputable that Durkin's Swindle fails repeatedly on that score. There is plenty of documentation here.

But OFCOM basically decided that Section 5.7 did not apply, and instead treated the complaint as if it was made under Section 2.2, where in order for a breach to have occurred, the programme would have to actually directly cause harm! Why did they do this?

OFCOM'S bizarre claim is that climate science is not covered by the rubric: major matters relating to current public policy. Tell that to the G8 ministers...even if the fact of anthropogenic climate change is considered indisputable, the magnitude and speed of future changes is a major issue that has a big impact on rational policy decisions (with substantial uncertainty even within the mainstream scientific consensus).

In order to justify their judgement, OFCOM even present an open invitation to HIV denialists, effectively stating that they would be allowed to broadcast their theories outside the scope of the Broadcasting Code. No doubt some IDiots will also have pricked up their ears at this news. What a great day for British Broadcasting!

I hope that Rado et al appeal successfully against this cowardly evasion.

(I'm off on holiday for a few days, so any silly flames and trolling will stay up for a little while. But they will be deleted on my return.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Great OFCOM Swindle

By now you will all have read about the official OFCOM judgement on Durkin's Swindle. Rather than rehash all the details, I will point you to here and here on the blogosphere. This is probably the best news summary and Dave Rado's article is also worth a read. The full Rado et al complaint and commentary is here and OFCOM judgement is here. (although oddly that page does not cover the judgement of "unjust or unfair treament of individuals" which is highlighted here).

Although C4 did get criticised for the unfair way it had treated Sir David King, Prof Carl Wunsch and the IPCC (and will have to publish an apology), they got off remarkably lightly on the question of "materially misleading", due to the way that OFCOM wriggled their way out of making any meaningful judgement. Because it is a "factual" programme rather than merely "news", there is no requirement of "due accuracy" on the broadcaster. The appropriate test for a breach of the code is a rather higher one, that the program must actually mislead "so as to cause harm or offence". Since the science was already settled, no-one will have believed the Swindle, and no policy decisions will be made on it, therefore there is no chance of it materially causing harm. So in summary it seems that (1) OFCOM doesn't care about the factual accuracy precisely because the program is supposedly "factual", and (2) climate science is not "a matter of political or industrial controversy or matter relating to current public policy", thus OFCOM doesn't require the presentation of it to be impartial or balanced (the economics-focussed section of the program did breach this bit of the code, however). It sort of has a valid internal logic in a smugly complacent middle-class sort of way, but leaves me wondering what OFCOM is actually for.

OTOH, in OFCOM's favour, I've not seen any evidence that the Swindle actually did help to convince anyone of anything (other than Durkin's dishonesty).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Journalist writes drivel in shock horror probe

Of course a journalist writing drivel in itself would be a story of dog-bites-man magnitude (with apologies to the numerous journalists who do actually make an effort to be honest and decent in their jobs). The real question is why anyone at the American Physical Society thought it appropriate to publish such drivel in their newsletter. I would not be surprised if some of the editorial staff (Jeffrey Marque in particular) are having their positions reconsidered for them.

As for the content, Tim Lambert has already fisked it briefly (see also here and here). The journalist in question is well known to be a clueless twit, although it has been rumoured that his behaviour is actually an elaborate hoax designed to undermine support for the peerage.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Watchdog finds documentary was unfair to scientists but did not mislead viewers"

The Grauniad is reporting that OFCOM is going to censure Channel 4 for Durkin's swindle, on the grounds that it "misrepresented some of the world's leading scientists". Even so, it "did not breach the regulator's broadcasting code". Score 0-1 against the regulator's broadcasting code, in that case.

Despite criticising Durkin for how the IPCC and Sir David King were treated, OFCOM seems to agree with my judgement that Wunsch was not actually badly misrepresented (although I can of course understand him being unhappy about how he was presented). And if Singer had had the sense to correctly attribute Lovelock's comments on "breeding pairs" etc (or report more accurately what David King had actually said) that would have taken the sting out of another of the major complaints, without changing the message substantially.

So it doesn't seem like the complaint has actually resulted in that definitive an outcome, although will have to wait to next week for the official version (and I suspect science correspondents may be harsher on Durkin than the Guardian's media correspondent was). I do hope that scientists who may in the future be tempted to appear in anything related to Martin Durkin and/or his company WAG TV will do a quick google search to find out what a piece of work he is, though.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yasuo "Mr Vacation" Fukuda

That's the current Prime Minister of Japan, in case you hadn't realised (at least he was when I wrote this blog..he might not be by the time you read it, given the rate they seem to change). He's off on his summer holiday today. It lasts until...Friday. Yup, he's taking 3 whole days off. And he's only 72, the lazy bugger. So the country is left leaderless. No change there then.

Incidentally, I heard recently that someone here who was due to retire soon has decided (or been persuaded) to stay on for a few more years. Several staff members have died since I've been here, but off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone who has actually retired normally. [In contrast, back in the UK, it seemed rare to actually make it through to retirement age - many more people in my lab had early retirements or voluntary redundancy than a standard retirement at the appropriate age.]

Friday, July 04, 2008

Corbyn on July

For some reason I never saw a copy of Piers Corbyn's June forecast, so I can't evaluate that. He did breathlessly announce on the 26th (Thursday): Our long range forecast for deluges and floods between 29th June and 2nd July still stands - so Glastonbury and Wimbledon watch out! However the only report I saw about Glastonbury at that time said it was pretty dry, even sunny by Sunday, and the drizzle at Wimbledon on the 2nd certainly wasn't enough to save Andy Murray. With typical chutzpah, he is still claiming he got this right - can anyone point to any "exceptional torrential downpours" in this interval? (I'm aware of some fairly heavy rain on the 27th, I even got to enjoy it as I was in Sheffield at the time.)

Anyway, on with July. It's going to be extremely wet ("probably one of the three wettest Julys on record") with a rainfall of 160-250% of the average over England and Wales. Just to be difficult, his temperature prediction is for the daily max rather than mean as previously. This is predicted to be 0.2-1C below mean, and he also says that the mins will probably not be below normal. I reckon I can therefore reasonably assign a range of about -0.5C to +0.2C for the means (for comparison with data). If the mean is outside this range, then it is hard to see the max being in Corbyn's prediction. I think this is probably generous to him, but will be happy to hear alternative suggestions.

As well as the UK weather, he has thrown in some typhoon predictions for free. Apparently there's a 60% chance of Japan taking a hit in the first half of the month or so. No sign of them so far and it has been particularly cold here this year, although I don't know what the sea surface temperature is looking like in the formation zone.

I've been away, BTW, for those who were wondering if I'd given up entirely.