The BBC is embroiled in another row over impartiality after using the half-time break in a World Cup game to show a “one-sided” film about the tournament’s carbon footprint.
MPs expressed “shock” after claims that Qatar 2022 is the biggest carbon-producing event in peacetime history were presented as fact, without any alternative analysis being shown.
Meanwhile, licence fee payers complained about being “lectured” in the middle of the France v Australia match on Tuesday evening.
It comes after a series of breaches of BBC rules on bias, including by the news presenter Martine Croxall, who expressed glee over Boris Johnson pulling out of the race to succeed Liz Truss, and an interview with the screenwriter Russell T Davies in which he attacked the Government.
Presenter Gary Lineker introduced the film by saying that “the choice of Qatar to organise this World Cup has been a controversial one, as has the organisers’ claims of being carbon neutral”.
The three-and-a-half minute film that followed was presented by James Stewart, a former climate scientist turned broadcaster, who told viewers of the “catastrophic” impact of carbon dioxide produced at such events.
Mike Berners-Lee, author of There Is No Planet B (and brother of internet inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee), was filmed claiming that Fifa’s claims of 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being produced by the World Cup were false and that “we think” the real figure is more than 10m tonnes, though no evidence was produced.
He went on to say that carbon credits – used by Qatar to offset the carbon dioxide produced in staging the event – were “completely bogus”, and that the World Cup was “the highest carbon event of any kind – apart from a war – that humans have ever staged”.
Kevin Anderson, the climate scientist, told viewers that “we need to send a message to Fifa [football’s world governing body] that we are not prepared to sacrifice the wellbeing of our own children, let alone other people around the world”, while Norway midfielder Morten Thorsby said the tournament was “an absolute disaster in terms of its environmental footprint”.
Mr Lineker said at the end of the film that “it’s an issue that football obviously has to address”.
Julian Knight MP, the chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee and a former BBC journalist, said that while the Qatar World Cup was “seriously questionable” from an environmental and human rights point of view, “I was shocked to see the BBC purely trotting out a selection of climate activists of just one viewpoint rather than taking a thoroughly balanced view”.
He added: “BBC Sport needs to leave news coverage to the news.”
Steve Brine MP, another member of the committee, said: “I thought I had accidentally switched over to an episode of Panorama.
“Half-time coverage of other nations’ matches used to be a chance to analyse the game and perhaps get an update from the home nations’ base camp.
“Last night, sport seemed to be pushed out and BBC news took over.”
Mr Brine added: “There didn’t appear to be any balance in the report to give even the organisers a chance to present their view, which is concerning.”
Review of impartiality
Earlier this year, the BBC launched a review of impartiality, ordered by the then culture secretary Nadine Dorries, and at the start of the World Cup the corporation insisted that BBC Sport would concentrate solely on football while BBC News would cover controversies such as LGBT laws and climate change.
Mr Lineker has spoken of his regret at the corporation’s failure to hold Russia to account over its invasion of Crimea and its human rights issues in its coverage of the 2018 World Cup, and that in its approach to coverage Qatar the BBC had “learned from what we probably felt was a mistake”.
Viewers accused the BBC of “mind blowing hypocrisy” on Twitter.
One said: “How many emissions have the BBC created to send all of its TV and radio crews to Qatar?” while another accused the corporation of “preaching” to its viewers and asked “I assume every single presenter and employee travelled to Qatar by electric vehicle?”
A BBC spokesman said: “We said we would address topical issues and this includes claims this was due to be the first carbon neutral World Cup, which was explored in a short segment during our extensive live coverage.”