Complaints Reports

Programme Complaints & Interventions Report

These reports are case summaries of complaints which appeared to raise issues of substance in relation to the interpretation of the ITC Programme Code. Summary statistics of non-substantive complaints can be found in the full reports which are obtainable from the ITC.

Showing Complaints & Interventions Report for AGAINST NATURE

Channel: Channel 4

Date & time: Sunday 30 November (The Battle for Progress) and Sunday 7 December (The Myth of Too Many):10.30 am

Complaint from: 151 viewers (4 upheld)

Background

This was a three-part series. Channel 4 described the two above-named programmes in advance programme information as “exposing green ideology as unscientific, irrational and anti-humanist”. (The third programme, with a rather different focus, had originally been broadcast in December 1996). A 55-minute studio debate following the series brought environmentalists and their critics together.

Issue

151 viewers in all complained about the two programmes, most of them citing examples of unfairness and inaccuracy. Four of the complaints came from contributors to the programmes. All four were distinguished environmentalists, who said that they had been misled as to the content and the purpose of the programmes, and that their known views had been distorted by editing.

Assessment

Comparison of the unedited and edited interview transcripts confirmed that the editing of the interviews with these four contributors had indeed distorted or misrepresented their known views. It was also found that the production company had misled them, when it originally sought their involvement, as to the format, subject matter and purpose of the programmes. No mention had been made of the critical position the programmes intended to adopt, for example in correspondence.

Wider questions of fairness and inaccuracy were the major concerns of the remaining 147 complainants. The ITC considered that the programmes’ line that green ideologies were, at least in some respects, open to criticism on both scientific and humanitarian grounds, was a legitimate approach. Both programmes included the views of those under attack. Certainly the post-series debate allowed environmentalists a fair opportunity to answer the charges laid at their door. The ITC would not wish to discourage Channel 4 from challenging popular and fashionable orthodoxies – always providing that programme makers meet the obligations of fairness and respect for the truth.

Conclusion

The ITC did not uphold the majority of the complaints. However, the programmes breached the Programme Code in respect of the failure to make the four interviewees adequately aware of the nature of the programmes, and the way their contributions were edited. The Commission directed Channel 4 to issue an on-screen apology to the individuals concerned. The apology was transmitted on Sunday 5 April.