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BBC’s Fake African Penguin Claim–Complaint Upheld

December 15, 2018

By Paul Homewood


You may recall the BBC’s news story a couple of months ago, claiming that African penguin populations were declining because of climate change. I covered the report here.

This was the exact wording used by the BBC presenter:

The next report is about the African penguin population and how it’s rapidly declining. Conservationists are saying their habitat is being hit by rising tides caused by climate change.

And it’s interesting that since that report by the UN last week on climate change, so many different organisations have been coming forward to emphasise the importance it has on their work.

The report from South Africa, which then followed, made no mention of climate change at all, but instead laid the blame fairly and squarely on overfishing.

Me being me of course, I promptly lodged a complaint with the BBC. Rather than just accepting they were wrong, the BBC Complaints Dept responded with this ridiculous letter:


Thank you for getting back in touch with us and for your further feedback regarding the BBC News Channel programme ‘Outside Source’.

We have discussed your concerns with the programme team. There are a number of factors influencing the decline of these penguins but researchers are clear that climate change is one of them. Climate change has affected fish stocks, and increased severe weather incidences have depleted penguin chick numbers.

Please see the links below for further information on this:

*(The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites).

This is standard procedure at the BBC – send a reply that fails to answer the complaint, and hope that the complainer will get bored and give up.

But they ought to know me better by now!

You may have spotted that neither of the references provided dealt with the issue at hand, ie rising tides. So I resubmitted the complaint to the BBC Executive Complaints Unit, who upheld my complaint, responding:



And here is the entry in the Correction and Clarifications Log:



This is not an isolated instance of false claims being made about climate change by the BBC. They now seem to be making a habit of it.

But what makes this instance particularly remarkable is that somebody, whether the presenter or his production team, simply invented this claim out of thin air. After all, they should have known that the report from South Africa made no mention of rising tides or climate change at all.

Then, to make matters worse still, they nonchalantly added:

And it’s interesting that since that report by the UN last week on climate change, so many different organisations have been coming forward to emphasise the importance it has on their work.

It is almost as if all BBC news personnel are under orders to hype climate change, whether the facts justify it or not.

  1. Chilli permalink
    December 15, 2018 5:43 pm

    Nice catch. I wonder how many people will see the correction vs how many saw the false claim. And I note the correction still alleges climate is having a discernable effect on penguins vs overfishing – a claim which I doubt is supported by any hard evidence.

    • bobn permalink
      December 15, 2018 8:57 pm

      Yes. It’s notable that the Correction and Clarifications Log note puts in more CC bullshit and does not reflect the complaint units letter. BBC is now such a politically biased fake news outfit it is probably beyond saving. Sell it off!

      • duker permalink
        December 15, 2018 9:17 pm

        Yes, they make another unsubstantiated claim the fish stocks are effected by climate change.

  2. Stuart Blaxland permalink
    December 15, 2018 5:46 pm

    Well done Paul. But I see that they still cannot resist the temptation to lie at the last moment and include the erroneous comment, not shown anywhere in the letter that “its is because of rising sea temperatures affecting fish stocks, not rising sea levels. Other factors include commercial fishing practices…” Is there any evidence at all that sea temperatures are rising there and this is affecting fish numbers? Typical BBC in my view, admitting they may have made a technical error but implying that they were right all along.

  3. Stuart permalink
    December 15, 2018 6:14 pm


    You’re doing a fantastic job on behalf of the silent majority. Thank you.

    Best Regards

    Stuart Lawrence

    • Lezz permalink
      December 16, 2018 6:40 am

      My views exactly.
      KBO, as Mr. Churchill would have said.
      All the Best!

  4. ellyssen permalink
    December 15, 2018 6:21 pm

    Good job!!! Keep it up. Eventually the beeb will have to start listening to facts and not the U.N. Propaganda and activists.

    • The Fool permalink
      December 15, 2018 6:52 pm

      ” Eventually the beeb will have to start listening to facts and not the U.N. Propaganda and activists.”

      ellyssen – I would like to think you were right on that count, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

  5. quaesoveritas permalink
    December 15, 2018 6:22 pm

    Well done!
    Unfortunately the BBC probably makes hundreds of false claims about “climate change” and it would be a full time job challenging them.
    Also, the general public only seem the initial claim, and not the retraction.

  6. Schrodinger's Cat permalink
    December 15, 2018 6:22 pm

    Well done, Paul.

    It reminds me of the puffin story which claims that sand eels in Northen waters are in decline due to global warming, leaving the puffins without food. The decline is actually due to over fishing of the sand eels. This BBC story has had three different incarnations in the last decade and these are just the ones I have noticed.

    The BBC is becoming a regular source of fake news on such matters.

  7. MrGrimNasty permalink
    December 15, 2018 6:42 pm

    The presenters do just make up facts on the hoof to counter any ‘wrong’ opinions on BBC radio – I hear it all the time. You could spend you life making complaints. The BBC is just brazen now.

    Perhaps the following from notricks explains why warmists don’t like an honest debate. Sounds like they aren’t used to being challenged, and readily resort to appeals to authority and insults. Assuming it’s an honest account, it sounds like it was a humiliation.

  8. December 15, 2018 6:43 pm

    That “Outside Source” thing features regularly on the BBC World Service (they call it OS), which is what you could call unconstrained propaganda, as the WS has weaker impartiality rules than those applying to the domestic BBC.

    Generally I can only stomach the WS for around 5 minutes, because they regularly get onto one of several areas that are clearly propaganda campaigns: Climate Change, Trump Bashing, Promotion of Migration, and Denigration of “Right-Wing” Govts and Ideas.

    The BBC are a key part of the Climate Change Media Grid, as revealed by Climategate, and the source of the penguin nonsense may well be one of the many NGOs and “charities” that they talk to, possibly even a deliberate ploy to create a fake news item by getting the BBC to broadcast it, allowing the others to give an “authoritative” source.

    • Curious George permalink
      December 16, 2018 7:07 pm

      Do we know how the Outside Source is compensated by the BBC?

  9. Patsy Lacey permalink
    December 15, 2018 6:44 pm

    There is a rarely an instance on the 6pm news where the BBC does not manage to add a scary item on climate change. Fiona Bruce can always be counted on to add her unique brand of artistic license to the effect that “we’re all doomed”. They don’t seem to appreciate the danger of overkill.

    • December 16, 2018 9:32 am

      “we’re all doomed” – BBC news has doomed itself with all their climate nonsense.

  10. December 15, 2018 7:01 pm

    This is a recent article on the decline of African penguins, its all about over-fishing of their food, no mention of climate change:

  11. markl permalink
    December 15, 2018 7:03 pm

    Propaganda ‘bombs’ are effective because once dropped the damage is done. And they know it.

  12. December 15, 2018 7:08 pm

    Reblogged this on Roald J. Larsen.

  13. December 15, 2018 7:37 pm

    The BBC drives me crazy with its fake news on so many topics! In my opinion, we need to be more alarmed by the plastic in the oceans rather than climate change. Indeed, if the climate is changing (which it always has on our planet!) we need to plan and finance adaptation rather than trying to stop it happening. And if we are the cause of ”Global warming” – can anyone tell me what caused the melting of the ice10,000 years ago?

    • December 16, 2018 10:26 am

      The plastics thing is another example though. People who actually care like Matt Rudkey gave pointing out for a few years now that the problem is largely “recycled” waste dumped in Asian and African rivers and discarded fishing gear. But instead we have campaigns that gives on straws from Western capitalists.

  14. December 15, 2018 8:20 pm

    It would never occur to the BBC propagandists that their perpetual doom and gloom has a major effect on the mental health of young people and their fear for the future. Hence a poem by a young girl:
    “a poem about her imaginary self walking through our future world, an environmentally devastated wasteland, and recalling with verdant memory the beautiful planet we destroyed”.

  15. Joe Public permalink
    December 15, 2018 9:59 pm

    Gotta love the attempt to offload blame:

    “… we said conservationists say …”

    It’s the Beeb’s job to check what their sources are alleged to have said.

    Maybe you should hold a competition in 2019, for who gets the most apologies from Aunty’s Executive Complaints Unit?

  16. December 16, 2018 12:35 am

    Well done Paul,don’t forget ‘The referee has spoken’ The BBC mantra that says debate with sceptics is not required; so what is going on here? Perhaps if we keep up the barrage they will eventually be forced to debate?

  17. yonason permalink
    December 16, 2018 7:59 am

    But, by the time your complaint was acknowledged as valid, their initial lie went around the world dozens of times, and the hard core warmists will continue to cite the lie, and ignore the correction.

    A little something more reasonable on why fishing is good some years in some places, and not in others.

    • dave permalink
      December 16, 2018 10:52 am

      This presentation (in three Parts) was made fifteen years ago. Since then, Cycle 24 developed and it was indeed weak. We will have to see what Cycle 25 does.

      I do not know when this was uploaded onto YouTube, but I notice that Part 1 has had 2590 views, Part 2 has had 1574 views, and Part 3 only 977. The almost vanishing interest in real science evidenced by these tiny numbers, and the short attention, span even of people who started to watch this extremely elementary exposition, speaks volumes. By comparison, a slight pop-song video got five hundred million views.

      I attended a summer accounting course at Carleton University, fifty years ago – I remember dozing in the sun there; a pleasant, and relaxed, academic ‘backwater.’

  18. Robin Richards permalink
    December 16, 2018 8:15 am

    I grew up in the Boulders House above the beach shown in the photograph. That was during WW2. There were no resident penguins at The Boulders in those days. They only became resident there in the 1980s. I can also assure readers that there is no evidence of significant rise in sea level or high tides over the last 75 years.

    I have no doubt that the population decline is due to over-fishing and possibly disease.

  19. December 16, 2018 9:30 am

    If its any consolation ABC, the Australian version of the BBC, is just as bad, a conclusion reached from just a few listenings to the BBC R5X Australia-India cricket commentary produced by ABC. Recent news bulletins were full of environmentalism, such as the Labor party regarding new environmental policies as top of their concerns, and a finger wagging from Oxfam about Australian emissions.

    With an election only 5 months away one could start to question the impartiality of the ABC.

    • dave permalink
      December 16, 2018 9:59 am

      The complaints departments of such organizations are a joke even to the people working in the organization. I was in a train recently, over-hearing some women who worked in the local council offices. One said:

      “Ann is a bit fed-up. They have set her up on her own with a phone to answer the public’s complaints about pot-holes and tell them when they are going to be filled in. Of course, since – actually – there ISN’T any plan to repair them…!”

      Another one said later:

      “The girls in Social Housing are a jolly bunch. That is probably because they are all on anti-depressants.”

  20. Henning Nielsen permalink
    December 16, 2018 11:00 am

    “But what makes this instance particularly remarkable is that somebody, whether the presenter or his production team, simply invented this claim out of thin air. ”

    Yes, that is remarkable. Could you imagine this being done concerning a scientific report about for instance cancer? Hardly. It just shows that the media -like most others- do not take the “climate crises” seriously at all, they could not care less, and as for their professional standards, I guess they regard the climate issue on a par with writing about some low-level celebrity; it does not matter whatever they say.

    The hype hit the fan some thirty years ago, and the air in the news offices must have become fairly fusty with it by now, a climate-saving smog. In there, they have a box of phrases which they arbitrarily apply to any climate-related comment; the media’s very own effort of recycling.

    And here’s a party game for boring your Christmas dinner guests: Take any IPCC or COP-meeting statement and ask when they think it was written, in the years from 1988 to 2018. I doubt that even James Hansen could give the correct answer.

  21. Harry Passfield permalink
    December 16, 2018 11:59 am

    If you really want to get into hysterical reporting of CC on the BBC you have to listen to Farming Today. I don’t think they miss a day – or a report – that they don’t have something to blame on CC.

  22. Bill Wiggans permalink
    December 16, 2018 12:23 pm

    It now needs a complaint about the lie in the apology. Over fishing is given a minor ,almost incidental role.

  23. Max Sawyer permalink
    December 16, 2018 12:29 pm

    If only there was legislation that forced the BBC (and others) to give equal airtime to corrections as was given to its inaccurate claims – and to broadcast them at the same time as the original programmes.

  24. lapogus permalink
    December 17, 2018 11:20 am

    Well done Paul, keep up the good work, it is appreciated.

  25. evilhippo permalink
    December 17, 2018 12:56 pm

    BBC is about as reliable & credible as Russia Today, which is to say not very.

  26. Andrew Smith permalink
    December 17, 2018 2:18 pm

    Even their online correction does not go to the heart of the matter. They reported something and attributed a reason. When caught out they still tried to imply they were right all along but just got their rising sea levels and falling fish stocks mixed up. Unacceptable but typical.

  27. T J Maz permalink
    December 17, 2018 4:04 pm

    I only listen to the BBC a couple of times a week here in the USA, mostly for their science and international news. It seems Global Warming (let’s call it what it is) is the cause of everything that happens and is the root of all science according to the BBC. It’s just awful propaganda. They do this for just the same reasons that so many call out racism, sexism, etc at every turn – virtue signalling to their tribe. Since AGW is a human caused problem in their eyes they are trying to get indulgences for talking about it and ordering others to do something about it. It’s sickening and a dangerous direction for society in general, and journalism in particular.

  28. Harry Pingu permalink
    December 17, 2018 4:10 pm

    If you say Extreme Weather, Rising Sea Levels & Climate Change often enough they stick in the public consciousness. Whether as global problems or just as evidence of BBC’ s bias is another matter.

  29. The Man at the Back permalink
    December 18, 2018 2:43 pm

    Roger Horrorbin was on the Jeremy Vine programme at lunchtime today. My wife advised switching off to calm me down. BUT amazingly his input on the subject of the governments new recycling ideas was sensible and balanced. I hardly disagreed with a word he said.

    Hell, it left me quite disillusioned !!!!

  30. Ed Zuiderwijk permalink
    December 20, 2018 11:15 am

    Even the correction contains a falsehood. The waters are not warming, the coastal currents come straight from from Antarctica. The fish stocks are depleted through overfishing and nothing else.

  31. Kurt in Switzerland permalink
    December 20, 2018 2:06 pm

    Paul, you wrote: “It is almost as if all BBC news personnel are under orders to hype climate change, whether the facts justify it or not.”

    You forgot the sarc tag.

    Surely it is patently obvious to all satient beings that the MSM’s marching orders are to ‘sell’ the UN Narrative [of dangerous, impending, irreversible human-caused climate change being poised to destroy our cozy “baby bear” climate] unless, of course, we collectively decide to transfer $100B+ USD, EUR, GBP or whatever to the Green Climate Fund annually. In which case the problem would be solved, thank you very much.

  32. Dennis Laughton permalink
    December 24, 2018 11:24 pm

    We used to rely on media such as the BBC to filter out incorrect / fake news. Now they are the source.


  1. BBC admits ‘climate change’ error: African penguins decline from overfishing; not ‘rising tides’ » Lysander Spooner University

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