Jon Snow (anchor, Channel 4 News): What Charles said in conclusion [to the INSI Safety session] could easily carry over into the next debate. He talked about the media having no responsibility for making things any worse, and perhaps not even for making things any better. But the thing about this next debate is that the charge is that the media is actively conspiring to destroy the planet by going for weather "porn" rather than going for an understanding of whether there is or is not some kind of global warming. Those of you who are going to discuss the media's potentially irresponsible activity in terms of covering global warming, welcome to our shores. Big round of applause to Ms. [Ayaan Hirsi] Ali for her courage in coming here, and a big round of applause to the rest of the audience for their courage in coming here.
[As many in the audience leave]: The departure of people on the heels of the discussion of the media and Islam will bring great pleasure to George Bush and those in the White House who believe there is no such thing as global warming. There are many in the neo-conservative fraternity and sorority in American society who believe that Islam is the great threat to the planet. I have to bring them some very tragic news, and that is that the issues between the West and Islam are a mite of dust by comparison with the issues that are embroiled in the question of global warming. Global warming really does have the potential to destroy the planet. There is nobody on earth who believes that the breakdown or indeed the making of a dialogue between the West and Islam is going to destroy the planet. So let's get things into proportion and recognise that we now have a further very interesting strand of debate to continue here at News Xchange.
We're going to have a vote, and the question is: Do you personally believe in the existence of manmade climate change? As long as five or six people vote, we know from historic experience in all our broadcasting careers, that that's quite enough to get a perfectly fair sample as to how people think; we shall have an absolutely representative answer on what percentage of people in this room believe there is or is not manmade climate change.
I now want you to indulge a little bit of "weather porn."
[Video of clips from coverage of Hurricane Katrina, floods in Cornwall, and other storms]
The big question is, do we media people do hurricane and weather porn? Is weather in some way some of the light relief that peppers our news broadcasts? Is it used as some kind of leavening to reduce the tedium of some of the domestic stuff that we have to put up with? Fran Unsworth, you are head of newsgathering at the BBC. Do we take weather seriously?
Fran Unsworth (head of newsgathering, BBC): We actually don't do that much of that stuff. We certainly didn't before Hurricane Katrina anyway. If anything, I'd say that on television news we had a bit of an aversion to covering hurricanes, particularly in the southern states of the U.S.A.
Jon Snow: You've never had anyone on a breakfast news program, standing in a rather fashionable-looking weatherproof jacket blowing around in the wind? Or actually much worse, not blowing around at all but saying a hurricane is actually coming.
Fran Unsworth: I think we're guilty of doing less of it than other broadcasters. It led to us to some extent being slightly late on the Hurricane Katrina story because we just sent a fairly small team to cover it and, of course, it turned into a completely different story, which was about the political reaction to it. Prior to that, we felt that it was an easy hit to cover those stories - everybody speaks English, you can send the Washington bureau, it's too easy.
Jon Snow: BBC spared us major weather porn. Let's turn to Andrew Tyndall and your research. How much do American networks do on the weather?
Andrew Tyndall (publisher, the Tyndall Report): My claim to fame is that I'm the only person in the universe who has watched every single nightly newscast of the three American broadcast networks every night since 1987.
Jon Snow: And what are the symptoms?
Andrew Tyndall: I've gone very grey in the process. We measure the news hole of each of the broadcast networks' newscasts, and then we count the stories and the amount of time given to them. There are 15,000 minutes a year in the news hole of the three newscasts combined - 5,000 minutes each. Over the past couple of decades, natural disasters have actually been a small proportion of the news hole - 4 per cent of the entire news hole. This year, however, starting with the [Indian Ocean] tsunami and then going on to Katrina and the hurricane season - it's up to about 14 per cent. So this has been a very heavy year this year. The norm for the entire environment beat - all environment stories - is 2 per cent. Global warming, therefore, is a fraction of 1 per cent.
Jon Snow: Time to put up the results from our first vote - what percentage of us believe there is such a thing as man-generated climate change: 93 per cent [57 people] to 6 per cent [4 people]. A very interesting finding, and that is from people who work in the media. George Monbiot, environmentalist, writer, broadcaster - and rather reassuring.
George Monbiot (columnist, The Guardian): I'll be speaking to the 6 per cent afterwards. Climate change is far and away the biggest threat we face now. It has the potential, effectively, to wipe us off the surface of the earth. The ecosphere is a very thin layer on top of the hard rock of the planet, and our entire economy is dependent on it.
Jon Snow: You've got 93 per cent of the people in this room, and they're all people who are extremely active in the making of news and current affairs, who believe there is such a thing as manmade global warming. That's not a bad bedrock to start from.
George Monbiot: Things have changed very rapidly. It wasn't that long ago that the BBC in the United Kingdom just about every time there was a discussion on climate change insisted on bringing on someone who had no scientific qualifications, and was generally funded by Exxon, to say climate change is not taking place - despite the fact that they were flying in the face of a scientific consensus as solid as any scientific consensus becomes. It was the equivalent of, every time you have the issue of smoking and lung cancer on the radio or the television, getting someone on to say there is no connection between smoking and lung cancer. Or the equivalent of getting someone on to say there is no connection between HIV and AIDS every time the issue of AIDS came up. It was grotesquely irresponsible. But I'm glad to say that I think that's passed.