Martin Durkin (television director)

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Martin Durkin is a television producer and director, most prominently of television documentaries for Channel 4 in Britain. He is managing director of WAG TV, a London-based independent TV production company. He has produced, directed and executive-produced a wide variety of programmes covering the arts, science, history, entertainment, features and social documentaries. A former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, a number of his documentaries have caused controversies, most notably those critical of environmentalism. He has been described as "the scourge of the greens"[1] and "one of the environmentalists' favourite hate figures".[2]

His style has been characterised as schlocky, but entertaining, and his stock-in-trade as tendentious sensationalism, "with the common-sense of the tabloid knee jerk".[3] Hostile to the National Health Service, he attacked Danny Boyle's Olympics Opening Ceremony 2012 - which had included a tribute to the health service and its staff - as "dim-brained leftwing history" and Boyle, "a miserable northern socialist".[4]

Documentaries[edit]

Against Nature[edit]

In 1997, Channel 4 broadcast Durkin's documentary series Against Nature, which criticized the environmental movement for being a threat to personal freedom and for crippling economic development.

The UK's then broadcasting regulator the Independent Television Commission received 151 complaints from viewers and interviewees featured in the programme with four complaints upheld.[5][6] In its report on the series, the ITC rejected 147 complaints that mainly were concerned with fairness and misrepresentation, stating that "the programmes' line that green ideologies were, at least in some respects, open to criticism on both scientific and humanitarian grounds, was a legitimate approach". It also stated that environmentalists had been permitted a fair chance to air their side of the story in the televised debates that followed the broadcast.

The ITC stated that four complaints were upheld because: "the programmes breached the Programme Code in respect of the failure to make the four interviewees adequately aware of the nature of the programmes, and the way their contributions were edited."[7] For these reasons, Channel 4 later issued a public apology on prime time television.[8][not in citation given] According to The Independent, Durkin "accepts the charge of misleading contributors, but describes the verdict of distortion as 'complete tosh'".[2]

Equinox[edit]

Durkin also produced 2 documentaries for Channel 4's science strand Equinox. In 1998 he produced "Storm in a D-Cup", which argued - before some national health authorities- that the medical dangers of silicone breast implants had been exaggerated for political reasons and highlighting evidence that implants may even carry medical benefits; and in 2000 he produced The Rise and Fall of GM.

The 1998 documentary on breast implants was originally developed for the BBC but was eventually produced for Channel 4 after the BBC declined to commission it; the BBC's in-house researcher concluded that Durkin had ignored evidence contradicting his claims in the programme.[6] Criticising the programme, environmental activist and writer George Monbiot wrote "Neither Martin Durkin nor, extraordinarily, Charles Furneaux, the commissioning editor of the science series Equinox, has a science background. They don't need one, for science on Channel 4 has been reduced to a crude manifesto for corporate libertarianism."[6]

The Rise and Fall of GM[edit]

This documentary, which argues in favour of genetic modification, was broadcast on Channel 4 on March 20, 2000, also met with complaints.[9] Environmentalist activists organised a campaign in an effort to discredit the film. A joint letter signed by a number of scientists from the Third World was issued in protest of Durkin's claims in this documentary.[10] Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, a scientist featured on the programme, later said of her participation in the programme: "I feel completely betrayed and misled. They did not tell me it was going to be an attack on my position." [6] However, although broadcasting regulator Ofcom received 17 complaints about the programme none was upheld; Ofcom concluded that 'although the programme set out to be a critical analysis of the case against GM, it nevertheless gave opportunity for a number of anti-GM speakers to explain their views clearly and fairly.' [3]

The Great Global Warming Swindle[edit]

The Great Global Warming Swindle was a 2007 documentary film that premiered on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom on March 8, 2007 and was subsequently criticised by the British media regulator Ofcom. The film features scientists and others who are skeptical that global warming is caused by human activity. The second part of the programme examines the conditions under which one of the current theories was developed. It focuses on political pressures on those who speak out against the supposed anthropogenic causes of global warming, some of the reasons for the wide adoption of this view and the factors leading to its original development. The film also interviews sceptics who are critical of environmental policies they view as holding back developing nations from industrialising. The film has drawn widespread complaints [11][12] from some in the scientific community, citing numerous errors and misleading claims. Professor Carl Wunsch who appeared on the programme has since repudiated the film, and described it 'as close to propaganda as anything since World War II'.[13] Durkin responded that Wunsch had been told very explicitly the nature of the programme and now appeared to be back-tracking.

The film was praised by critics of the scientific consensus on global warming, including Andrew Bolt,[14] Dominic Lawson[15] and Steven Milloy,[16] and Durkin's work has been defended in an interview in Spiked.[17]

Further controversy followed the broadcast of the film after it emerged that Martin Durkin had fallen out with geneticist Armand Leroi (whom Durkin was due to make a documentary with), after Leroi questioned the accuracy of the data used in the film in an email to Durkin. Leroi copied the e-mail to various colleagues including Guardian journalist and Bad Science columnist Ben Goldacre and science writer and mathematics expert Simon Singh. Durkin replied to Leroi copying in the others with the single sentence: "You're a big daft cock." Singh then sent an email to Durkin that said: "I have not paid the same attention to your programme as Armand has done, but from what I did see it is an irresponsible piece of film-making. If you can send me a copy of the programme then I will examine it in more detail and give you a more considered response...it would be great if you could engage in the debate rather just resorting to one line replies."

Durkin responded: "The IPCC's own figures show the hottest year in the past ten was 1998, and the temp has been flat-lining now for five years. If it's greenhouse gas causing the warming the rate of warming should be higher in the troposphere than on the surface. The opposite is the case. The ice core data shows that temperature change causes the level of atmospheric CO2 to change - not the other way round. Why have we not heard this in the hours and hours of shit programming on global warming shoved down our throats by the BBC?", and concluded with, "Never mind a bit of irresponsible film-making. Go and fuck yourself."[18] Durkin later apologised for his language, saying that he had sent the e-mails when tired and had just finished making the programme, and that he was "eager to have all the science properly debated with scientists qualified in the right areas."[19]

The film was awarded the Best Documentary trophy at the Io Isabella film festival and was shortlisted for the Best Documentary prize in the British television industry's 2008 Broadcast Awards.[4]

An official judgement issued on 21 July 2008 by the British media regulator Ofcom found that the programme "did not fulfill obligations to be impartial and to reflect a range of views on controversial issues". It upheld complaints by Sir David King, stating that his views were misrepresented, and Carl Wunsch, on the points that he had been misled as to its intent, and that the impression had been given that he agreed with the programme's position on climate change. However, the regulator said that because "the link between human activity and global warming... became settled before March 2007" the audience was not "materially misled so as to cause harm or offence". Ofcom declined to rule on the accuracy of the programme, saying: "It is not within Ofcom's remit or ability in this case as the regulator of the 'communications industry' to establish or seek to adjudicate on 'facts' such as whether global warming is a man-made phenomenon".[20]

Britain's Trillion Pound Horror Story[edit]

In 2010 Durkin made a programme called Britain's Trillion Pound Horror Story for Channel 4. Ostensibly about Britain's national debt, the film makes a case for lower taxes, a smaller public sector and a free-market economy. The film argues that Hong Kong's social and economic success is attributable to the positive non-interventionism implemented in 1971 by John James Cowperthwaite, meaning that it became the "Manhattan of Asia". In the film Durkin argued that increasing public spending would stunt the economy instead of reviving it. It featured Nigel Lawson, Geoffrey Howe, Brendan Barber and Alastair Darling.

As executive producer[edit]

Martin Durkin has also executive produced a wide range of programmes. Notable productions include: The Naked Pilgrim, an architectural travelogue that followed art critic Brian Sewell's pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela; produced for UK's Channel Five it won the Sandford St. Martin Trust award for best programme in 2004; Face of Britain for Channel 4, a 3 part series presented by Neil Oliver, which looked at the Wellcome Trust's DNA project profiling the ancestry of various British communities; How Do They Do It?, an engineering series for Discovery Channel; Secret Intersex, a 2-part series about intersexuality for Channel 4, which was short listed for Best Science Programme in the 2004 Royal Television Society awards.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tim Walker (12 October 2008). "The climate change unbelievers". The Independent. Retrieved September 11, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Geoffrey Lean (4 March 2007). "Global warming: An inconvenient truth or hot air?". The Independent. Retrieved May 11, 2009. 
  3. ^ The Independent, 12 November 2010 [1]
  4. ^ The Observer, 29 July 2012
  5. ^ Programme Complaints & Interventions Report
  6. ^ a b c d Getting your science from charlatans George Monbiot, The Guardian 16 March 2000
  7. ^ Independent Television Commission ruling on "Against Nature"
  8. ^ More digs at Durkin letter from Peter Melchett (executive director of Greenpeace) The Guardian, March 22, 2000
  9. ^ GM Watch profile of Durkin
  10. ^ Joint letter to Channel Four Television and the Times newspaper Dr. Tewolde Gebre Egziaber
  11. ^ Martin Durkin (2007-03-17). "'The global-warmers were bound to attack, but why are they so feeble?'". London: Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  12. ^ Robin McKie (2007-03-04). "Why Channel 4 has got it wrong over climate change". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  13. ^ Ben Goldacre; David Adam (2007-03-11). "Climate scientist 'duped to deny global warming'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  14. ^ "The global warming film you mustn't watch". The Herald Sun. 12 March 2007. 
  15. ^ Lawson, Dominic (2 March 2007). "Dominic Lawson: Here is another inconvenient truth (but this one will infuriate the Green lobby)". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  16. ^ Milloy, Steven (18 March 2007). "Must-See Global Warming TV". Fox News. Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  17. ^ O'Neill, Brendan (9 March 2007). "'Apocalypse my arse'". Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  18. ^ Email correspondence between Armand Leroi, Simon Singh and Martin Durkin
  19. ^ Sam Coates; Mark Henderson (2007-03-15). "C4's debate on global warming boils over". London: Times Online. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^ Royal Television Society - Programme

External links[edit]