Complaint to BBC following ‘biased’ news report

The FUW has written to BBC General Director, Tony hall, formally complaining about a recent news report which encouraged consumers to stop eating beef in order to combat climate change. The FUW has also complained about the online content associated with this news report and believes that the editorial and creative decisions made by the BBC have breached BBC Charter elements relating to both ‘The Independence of the BBC’ and ‘The Public Purposes of the BBC’.

Claims by the BBC that ‘gases produced by livestock and the carbon footprint of many of the foods we eat, are a major factor in global warming’ completely failed to distinguish between UK and global emissions data and made little attempt to properly compare emissions from agriculture with other sectors, such as transport and energy.

According to The National Atmospheric emissions Industry, UK greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture represented just 10 per cent of total UK emissions in 2016. emissions from the UK energy, transport, business and residential sectors during the same period were much higher and represented 26, 27, 18 and 15 per cent of the UK total respectively.

Glyn Roberts, FUW president, said: “For an organisation such as the BBC to present information in this way is incredibly neglectful. The BBC oversimplified this complex issue to the extent that it is akin to a deliberate attempt to undermine the UK livestock sector.

“Defra greenhouse gas emission projections for UK agriculture to 2030
actually predict a decline in gases such as methane; and this includes enteric
emissions from sheep, dairy and non-dairy cattle. however, the BBC report
used global emission data to inform viewers that methane emissions from agriculture were set to rise by 60 per cent in the next 11 years.

“According to the BBC Charter, the Mission of the BBC is to provide impartial and high quality services which educate audiences. The Charter also states that the content of programmes produced by the BBC should be provided to the highest standards and should offer a range and depth of analysis. On this occasion, we believe that the BBC has failed on both counts.”

As part of this news story, the contribution of beef to climate change was compared to the impact of both chocolate and a sandwich. however, the oversimplified nature of the article simply stated that ‘beef slices’ provided 3.5kg of greenhouses gases whilst ‘chocolates’ provided just 1.4kg. These broad and low brow statements missed key and essential supporting criteria such as the volume of food actually eaten by an average consumer, the reference period over which such volumes are consumed, the origin of the product and the production method.

“It is well recognised that significant differences exist between different livestock sectors and different forms of livestock production in different countries and the FUW is incensed that the BBC would undermine the significant inroads in reducing greenhouse gas emissions already made by UK agriculture and would reiterate that differences between global and UK data should be made clear within future reports.

“UK agriculture has already embraced changes to breeding and feeding regimes, animal health protocols, nutrient management and on-farm technologies in order to improve efficiencies and reduce environmental impacts.

“We are incredibly disappointed that the BBC was not more truthful and transparent in the information it displayed to viewers and readers. The FUW has therefore issued a formal complaint and we have formally requested a copy of information used by the BBC, on which they base their claims in the report.

“We have also asked for the opportunity to take remedial action and have reminded the BBC that sensationalism must not overshadow the BBC’s obligation to present balanced and evidenced reports in future,” added Glyn Roberts.

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