Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Belfast executive opposes BBC plans for Planet Relief

A senior BBC news executive from Belfast has criticised the corporation's plans for a green version of Comic Relief.

Newsnight editor Peter Barron said he is opposed to Planet Relief - a proposed day of programmes about climate change - because it is "not our job" to campaign on global warming.

Mr Barron follows in the footsteps of his programme's main presenter, Jeremy Paxman, who last week lashed out at TV executives and questioned whether " the BBC itself has a future".

Earlier this year, Mr Paxman said BBC coverage of climate change " abandoned the pretence of impartiality long ago" and had a "high moral tone".

And his boss, who was raised in Belfast, found himself in a similar debate at the Edinburgh Television Festival this week.

Mr Barron, who is advisory chair for this year's TV festival, indicated that he believes the BBC is going beyond its remit by planning Planet Relief. " If the BBC is thinking about campaigning on climate change, then that is wrong and not our job," he reportedly said.

"People are understandably interested in this, but it is absolutely not the BBC's job to save the planet. There are a lot of people who think that, but it must be stopped."

He made his comments during a panel discussion at the TV festival and was backed by another senior BBC executive, head of television news Peter Horrocks.

Proposals for Planet Relief would see a day of programming led by Ricky Gervais and Jonathan Ross.

During the festival, the maker of a film looking sceptically at climate change campaigners said the BBC is "soft green".

"If it decides that is is going to adopt climate change as a moral purpose, I have got a lot of trouble with that," said Martin Durkan, who made Channel 4's Great Global Warming Swindle. "I don't think it is the role of the BBC to spend my money on a moral purpose."

The BBC said Planet Relief is "still in development" and "the intention would be to debate the issue and in no way campaign on a single point of view." This summer, viewers gave thumbs down to the BBC's coverage of green campaigning Live Earth concerts. A day of programming attracted 900,000 viewers.

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