Broadcasting House’s Million Square Kilometre Blunder

It has just been brought to my attention that the topic of Arctic sea ice was raised by Angela Rippon on the edition of “Broadcasting House” that aired on BBC Radio 4 on the morning of Sunday September 29th. In her review of that Sunday’s papers Angela had the following to say:


Tucked away at the bottom of a page in the Mail on Sunday is a piece saying that “The Arctic ice experts have made a million kilometer blunder“, and this is again using computers, and apparently the official source of information on polar ice caps have got it’s figures for the recovery of the Arctic cap wrong by a million square miles, and they say that this was actually a typo, it was a typographical error, and there are no plans to make a statement on the change because it was just an error in the data. So what data CAN we believe?


Obviously that’s my own transcript rather than an official one from the BBC. By all means listen to the programme yourself, and let me know if I’ve inadvertently got something wrong. According to the BBC’s “BH” page it will be available for download there for another 25 days.

Now obviously as soon as I’ve finished writing this article I’m going to amble over to the BBC web site to lodge a formal complaint, in which I shall suggest that Angela and the BBC’s “BH” team read this website from cover to cover, starting with this very article.

As a preliminary answer to Angela’s final question I would like to suggest:

Certainly not the Mail on Sunday’s, and not the British Broadcasting Corporation’s either, unless they correct this particular blunder quicker than you can say “Global COOLING!” whilst simultaneously sipping a piña colada by the side of Santa’s super new low albedo summer swimming pool!

3 thoughts on “Broadcasting House’s Million Square Kilometre Blunder

  1. I’ve now received a reply of sorts from the BBC. Amongst one or two other things it says:

    Thanks for recently contacting the BBC. We aim to reply to complaints within 10 working days (around 2 weeks) and do so for most of them but cannot for all. The time taken depends on the nature of your complaint, how many others we are dealing with and can also be affected by practical issues such as whether a production team is available or away on location.

    This is to let you know that we have referred your complaint to the relevant staff but that it may take longer than 10 working days to reply. We therefore ask you not to contact us further in the meantime. If it does prove necessary however, please use our webform, quoting any reference number we provided. This is an automatic email sent from an account which is not monitored so you cannot reply to this email address.

    In order to use the licence fee efficiently we may not investigate every issue if it does not suggest a substantive breach of guidelines, or may send the same reply to everyone if others have complained about the same issue.

  2. I’ve received a formal response from the Beeb at long last. It reads as follows:

    Thanks for contacting us regarding “Broadcasting House” broadcast on the 29 September.

    Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents appreciate a quick response and we’re sorry you have had to wait on this occasion.

    We took your concerns to the Editor, who provided the following response:

    Thanks for your comments.

    Angela Rippon reported the piece as follows:

    “Tucked away at the bottom of the page in the Mail on Sunday is a piece saying the arctic ice experts have made a million kilometre blunder. This is again using computers and apparently the official source of information on polar ice caps have got it’s figure for the recovery of the arctic cap wrong by a million square miles. They say that this was actually a typo, a typographical error. There are no plans to make a statement on the change because it was just an error in the data.”

    Having read the Daily Mail article, I think Angela Rippon fairly represented what the Mail had written; she did not simply say it was “an error in the data”: she preceded that by saying clearly it was a typographical error, and her comment that it was an error in the data should be seen in that context.

    The piece was not written as a correction and the role of the paper review on BH is to discuss some of the stories in the papers and the themes that arise from that rather than to question the journalism. In this instance, this article fitted in with a broader conversation that took place during this paper review “featuring Henry Dimbleby, who studied science at university, and Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a space scientist – about how science is reported.”

    We’d also like to assure you that we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is an internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily and is available for viewing by all our staff. This includes all programme makers and presenters, along with our senior management. It ensures that your points, along with all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.

    Thanks again for contacting us.

    Kind Regards

    BBC Complaints

  3. Well, that was a *underwhelming* response from the Auntie…and almost comically predictable. Thanks for doing this, because thn e dismissives need this tossed in their collective gobs.

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