U.K. Enviro-lobbyist George Monbiot has problems with the science programming on Channel 4, and he wants everyone to know it. Using a column in the London daily The Guardian as his forum last month, Monbiot criticized C4′s Equinox science series for airing programs produced by Martin Durkin, whom he says ‘has often been accused of taking liberties with the facts.’
Monbiot’s article came out a few days in advance of the broadcast of Durkin’s latest production for Equinox, ‘The Rise and Fall of GM,’ about the issues surrounding genetically modified foods. To support his claims, Monbiot quotes a researcher who was featured in the program as saying she felt ‘completely misled and betrayed’ by Durkin.
Channel 4′s director of programs, Tim Gardam, responded to Monbiot’s comments in a letter to the editor, which ran a few days later. In defense of Durkin, he wrote: ‘The producer’s letter to [the researcher] said the film was intended as a ‘critical examination of the case against GM foods.” And to illustrate the importance C4 places on balanced coverage, he noted that they scheduled a studio debate to follow the program.
Monbiot’s accusations against Durkin are not entirely without foundation, however. In 1997, the producer made a series for C4 called Against Nature, which drew fire from the U.K.’s Independent Television Commission. Durkin was fined for misrepresenting the program to interviewees and un-fairly editing their comments. He was also required to issue an on-air apology.
In yet another Guardian letter, exec director of Greenpeace, Peter Melchett, wrote that while he declined to participate in Durkin’s story about GM foods, he cooperated with the BBC for a program on the same topic, stating ‘we will always cooperate with responsible filmmakers.’ Melchett was one of the interviewees in Against Nature who complained to the ITC.