The BBC has said controversial presenter Chris Packham did not breach impartiality guidelines when he told Autumnwatch viewers glyphosate and neonicotinoids were ‘proven’ to be harmful to insects.
The Countryside Alliance wrote to the BBC to complain after Mr Packham made the remarks in the October 24 episode of the popular show, with no counter-arguments provided.
He said: “In June this year, a certain group of pesticides, neonicotinoids, were proven to have harmful effects on bees, both honey bees and wild bees.
“And entirely separately, another controversial chemical, glyphosate, has also been shown to be harmful to insects.”
MEPs had voted to ban glyphosate by December 15 2022 on the same day as the broadcast.
The BBC has responded to previous complaints about Mr Packham’s impartiality by suggesting he should observe a period of campaigning silence either side of his programmes, but as recently as 11 days before the October 24 episode of Autumnwatch, his views on glyphosate were published in a national newspaper.
Other justifications for allowing him to escape censure include referring to his position as a freelancer rather than a ‘regular presenter.’
Answering the Countryside Alliance’s latest objection, why Mr Packham was allowed to broadcast his personal campaigning views as scientific fact, BBC complaints director Colin Tregar said: “In light of comments Mr Packham has made previously about the use of pesticides such as glyphosate, I think it would have been better if he had not presented this section of the programme.”
Despite this admission, Mr Tregar went on to say: “I do not believe there was a breach of the impartiality guidelines on this occasion.”
Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “The BBC has essentially given Mr Packham an enormous licence fee-funded platform for his campaign against glyphosate, on the day the EU were voting on the issue.
“The whole debacle reinforces the fact they simply need to enforce BBC editorial guidelines consistently and fairly for all presenters.
“The BBC has issues public censures to other freelance presenters such as Jenni Murray and Adam Rutherford, but despite inventing new rules it refuses to accept Mr Packham is a threat to BBC impartiality and is unwilling to do anything to curb his campaigning.”