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BBC Forced To Retract False Claims About Cyclone Pam

August 6, 2015

By Paul Homewood 





After three months and much stubborn arrogance from them, the BBC have finally been forced to retract one of their lies about Cyclone Pam, which devastated Vanuatu in March.


As readers may recall, I pointed out that their above claim of 300km/h winds was fallacious and grossly misleading in an attempt to compare the storm with Typhoon Tip, the most intense, and arguably the strongest, typhoon on record. The intent of the piece was clear – to suggest that Cyclone Pam was one of the worst on record.

As I mentioned at the time, the 1-minute sustained wind speed of Pam was much lower at 268 kph. The 1-minute speed is the one officially used by the JTWC, but more importantly was also the basis for the 300 km/h for Tip.


So, my first complaint went in to the BBC, pointing out their factual inaccuracy and asking for a correction. Their reply was sheer arrogance:



We have checked with our reporter who said the wind speed figure came from news wires at the time, which reported speeds of up to 300km/h.

We note other media outlets were reporting the same speed: 


In other words, it was alright to tell lies because the Guardian were telling the same ones!

Understandably unhappy with this response, I resubmitted my complaint. (With the BBC complaints system, you can’t just say “I am unhappy”, you have to totally resubmit the complaint again. This is undoubtedly the BBC’s way of discouraging complainers).


After two months of having heard nothing (another BBC trick), I emailed their Complaints Manager, who apologised. A few days later, their official response arrived, but they still refused to correct or clarify:


May we firstly apologise for the delay in response, due to an administrative error.

In the article you cite, we reported the speeds of “up to 300km/h”.

While you give the figure for sustained wind speed, at the time the Fiji Meteorological Service was talking about gusts of up to 335km per hour, as reported here:

There are various measures of wind speed – 10-minute sustained, one-minute sustained and gusts – and we have not stated which specific method is referred to here, but the figure you cite does not make our figure inaccurate


At this stage, to take the complaint further, you have to request a review from the BBC Trust, which I did. I made the point that to use one type of measurement to compare with a totally different one was totally unacceptable and misleading.

It seems the Trust agreed, because they replied:


I am sorry for the delay in responding to you. We have reviewed the correspondence relating to your appeal and after looking into this matter in some detail, we wanted to discuss your complaint with BBC News. They have advised that they would like to respond to you again.

I appreciate that you may prefer the Trust to deal with your complaint but the BBC’s complaints framework stipulates that complaints must be dealt with by the Executive in the first instance and they have the right to respond to you further if you are dissatisfied with their initial response. 

I hope that the further response from the BBC will address all your concerns but if you remain dissatisfied it is, of course, open to you to appeal to the Trust. Please note you will need to do this within 20 working days of the receipt of the final response from BBC News.


Evidently they knew that this was one case they could not win, and, rather than have a Trust decision going against the BBC, decided to give BBC News another chance to correct.

Within a week, they capitulated:


In the light of your correspondence with the BBC Trust about the relative speeds of Cyclone Pam and Typhoon Tip, we have agreed to review the matter.

Following discussions with the Trust, we have revised the figures in the graphic on this page to make clear which are specifically comparable figures.




Of course, the problems with all of these sort of complaints against the BBC is that, although they may agree to correct weeks later, nobody is likely to notice. It is the original, erroneous information which is seen and remembered.

Although many complain about press standards, at least where newspapers get things wrong they have to publish a correction. (There is actually an irony here – I also complained to the new press complaints outfit, IPSO, about the same error in the Guardian, only to be told they were not a member of IPSO! This after the Guardian had made a song and dance about the need for state regulation of the press!)

Nevertheless, this is the only way we can keep the BBC on their toes, and remind them that they cannot publish lies without any comeback. It is a sign, however, of their arrogance, that they would rather waste time and money arguing the toss, rather than simply admitting their mistakes and putting them right in the first place.

  1. August 6, 2015 11:31 am

    Well done Paul, your continuous stream of short articles are very helpful for keeping abreast of the “science” (i.e. real science) and media treatment of it. This off topic, but I believe quite important…

    Obama’s CO2 Deception

    Bottom line is that depending how you slice and dice the statistics the US has either already met its 2030 commitment or is more than half way there.

    • August 6, 2015 11:39 am

      Thanks Euan.

      I’ve also got a piece written, ready to go out on Saturday, that you might be interested in.

      (I’m on holiday then, so its a gap filler!!)

  2. Joe Public permalink
    August 6, 2015 11:34 am

    Congrats on your success Paul.


  3. August 6, 2015 11:40 am

    Well done Paul. Complaining to any public service is a long, tortuous and painful process. The BBC seems to be an extreme example though. The sooner the licence fee is scrapped the better.

  4. 1saveenergy permalink
    August 6, 2015 12:13 pm

    Well done Paul, its a up hill fight……but only for 97% of the way.(:-))

  5. Scott permalink
    August 6, 2015 12:25 pm

    I see that Wikipedia has changed the max wind speeds of Hurricane Camille. They use to say over 200 mph and now they say 175 mph. I heard that his change was for the upcomming summit and Paris. Do you know of any other history that has been rewritten?

    • August 6, 2015 2:59 pm

      Scott ..You can go back to the Wikipedia page and click the TALK button on the top left of the page, I expect you’ll see a discussion about the revision..if you disagree ..login and change the number back.

  6. August 6, 2015 12:32 pm

    Well done Paul. This is a good illustration of how the BBC has gotten out of hand, why is a TV broadcaster acting as a climate propaganda outlet? The BBC is not a science organisation, at most they should just provide links to places that are, as those places should be constantly checking and updating their information.

  7. August 6, 2015 12:35 pm

    I hope your Saturday holiday will not be going to watch the cricket at Trent Bridge. There may not be much.

  8. August 6, 2015 2:17 pm

    Nice to see truth overcome lies. True science prevails in this instance.

  9. igsy permalink
    August 6, 2015 3:11 pm

    To breach the Biased Broadcasting Corporation’s defences and get this far requires exceptional perseverance and a significant devotion of time. Complete accuracy is also essential – there is no inconsistency too trivial that they will not use as a pretext to dismiss a complaint. This is a much-needed public service you are performing.

  10. A C Osborn permalink
    August 6, 2015 3:20 pm

    Well done Paul, an historic victory over the Biased broadcasting Company.

  11. BLACK PEARL permalink
    August 6, 2015 3:33 pm

    Also Harrabins spin (lie) on the AA survey of motorists stating that the AA now sided with green groups
    Got this reply from AA on this

    “Please rest assured that Edmund King, AA president, has been back to Roger Harrabin at the BBC pointing out that the headline and introduction to his piece didn’t represent the AA view as we only commented on VED and what our members thought of the proposed changes.

    Zealots & fanatics .. just how Hitler rose to a position of power

  12. August 6, 2015 4:20 pm

    The fact that the likes of the BBC and the Guardian are reduced to exaggerating every weather event worth mentioning tells us all we need to know about their desperation to keep their phoney climate propaganda going.

  13. August 6, 2015 4:39 pm

    You’ve done very well to get a retraction out of the BBC, but as you imply, not many others will get to hear about it.

  14. August 6, 2015 4:59 pm

    Thanks for your patience and tenacity in holding them to account on this. Hearsay is no defence unless it is attributed at the time. Because the BBC are viewed as authoritative they should have a special duty of care to their audience.

  15. Mark Hodgson permalink
    August 6, 2015 6:03 pm

    Sorry for the delay, just wanted to add my thanks and congratulations – please keep at ’em!

  16. Mike Post permalink
    August 6, 2015 8:51 pm

    On 6 May 2015, the BBC reported incorrectly: “Tesla loss narrows as orders rise”. When I pointed out that this was untrue and that Tesla losses had actually increased, they changed the headline to: “Tesla revenues boosted as electric car orders rise” with the same story but with a correction at the bottom. Given that it is now being reported that in Q2 2015 Tesla losses tripled to $184 million, I wonder what how or if the BBC will report Tesla’s woes?

  17. August 6, 2015 10:24 pm

    Well done Paul. All these retractions that the likes of you get out of the BBC will matter in the end as the greatest effect they will have is when you can present 20 or retractions to demonstrate the BBC’s continuous manipulation of the facts. Those opportunities to do this will arrive.

  18. Graeme No.3 permalink
    August 6, 2015 11:54 pm

    Well done, Paul. British bulldog savages imposter?

  19. TonyM permalink
    August 7, 2015 12:50 am

    Unfortunately, the Western U.S. is experiencing a rash of major fires. Governor Brown of California ( also known as “Moonbeam”) blamed it on Climate Change. . They have been exacerbated by a rather severe drought. The Western states have had major fires and periodic droughts throughout history. I am sure these will be labeled “Unprecedented”. Unlike the BBC incident, no force appears large enough to ever convince the media or the Governor to retract these statements. Next onstage will be Obama, saying “I told you so”.

  20. duker permalink
    August 7, 2015 1:59 am

    Interesting that Guardian isnt a member of IPSO but quite happily features stories about other papers being rapped over the knuckles by them.

  21. August 7, 2015 8:40 am

    The Spectator has been having a moan about the attitude of the BBC’s Roger Harrabin.

    ‘Roger Harrabin is paid by the licence payers. Yet, judging by his Twitter feed, his views are even more partisan than those of Richard Black. When he’s not plugging a Guardian conspiracy theory involving US Republican sceptics and BP, he’s wringing his hands at the cut to wind subsidies or lamenting the lack of civil servants to enforce ‘smarter’ environmental laws.’

    That’s just the start.

  22. Matthew permalink
    August 7, 2015 12:19 pm

    Hi Paul – I would be interested in your views on this article in the Telegraph. They were reporting temperatures in Iraq at 70 degrees C!!!. However hidden in text was this was ‘Heat Index’ rather than actual temperature. What is the heat index? A new con to scare people?

  23. Political Junkie permalink
    August 9, 2015 2:11 am

    We in Canada have similar issues.

    Greenpeace had one of its terrorist ships parked in the South Pacific and decided to host a meeting for area activists. As a workshop exercise the few dozen alarmists present drafted an amateurish ‘declaration’ to ‘take on’ evil unspecified ‘fossil fuel giants’ at an unspecified time at an unspecified international court for unspecified compensation for unspecified and undefined ‘criminal’ cyclone damage caused by these evil companies.

    THE FIRST SENTENCE of a Toronto Star article reporting on this topic contained FIVE factual errors / misleading references. It elevated the activist ad hoc workshop exercise into a ground breaking multi-national intergovernmental pact among Pacific island nations. The major environmental news story was intentionally polluted with misinformation:

    “Tiny Vanautu is taking on the world’s fossil-fuel giants, seeking compensation for destruction linked to climate change.”

    1. The Vanautu nor any other government was involved and nobody is ‘taking on’ anybody.
    2. The ‘fossil fuel giants’ were not specified.
    3. ‘Compensation’ nor ‘destruction’ were defined.
    4. No appropriate jurisdiction was identified.
    5. The fact that the IPCC and others make no ‘link’ between tropical cyclones and ‘fossil fuel giants’ was not mentioned.

    The Star did agree that the article was misleading by suggesting that multiple Pacific Island governments were involved and issued a ‘clarification’ to that effect.

    The rest of the article is the subject of a complaint to the Ontario Press Council.

  24. August 9, 2015 8:39 am

    Well done! Extreme phenomenons seem to allways stimulate journalists and (some) scientist’s imagination and make them “report” things that never took place. california drought, for example, is also a subject that needs to be better investigated or explained. I found an interesting idea here:

  25. Peter Lloyd permalink
    August 11, 2015 1:59 pm

    Well done for being persistent. It will have taught the BBC something about their complaints system if nothing else

  26. August 11, 2015 2:57 pm

    Reblogged this on Green Jihad.

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