Friends of Science hits the airwaves

As many readers may already know, the Friends of Science radio ad campaign, first reported here back in July, has finally hit Canadian airwaves (hat tip to Kevin Grandia at Desmogblog). Unsurprisingly, the ads are full-on, unsophisticated attacks on climate science, complete with hardline contrarian nonsense about current global “cooling” and the pre-eminient role of the sun.

The ads also highlight the acquiescence of one of Canada’s foremost media outlets, Corus Radio, in the spread of palpable misinformation about climate change. Not only that, but the new campaign renews questions about Friends of Science funding and the hidden role of public relations professionals. And those questions lead straight back to the Calgary Foundation’s oil-patch funded Science Education Fund, and longtime climate contrarian PR specialist (and Conservative activist) Morten Paulsen.

If you must, you can listen to the ads here or read my transcript here. But let me save you the trouble and tell you that both ads conclude that “there’s been no warming for ten years” and that “the main cause of climate change is the sun.” The first ad even goes so far as to state that “in fact, it’s been cooling” and takes a swipe at climate models, claiming that “predictions of major global warming have been wrong”.

Of course, the “global cooling” meme has been debunked over and over here (and elsewhere), while the argument that the sun is the “driver” of current climate change is equally fallacious. There’s also a good summary from Mind of Dan, debunking the main talking points of the ads.

The more interesting question is what kind of radio stations would be so irresponsible as to broadcast such obvious tripe on its airwaves. And the likely answer is this: the same ones that feature syndicated right-wing radio hosts like Charles Adler, Roy Green and Lowell Green (no relation), who have made welcome Friends of Science advisers like Tim Ball and Tim Patterson in the past. This archived page from Tom Harris’s and Tim Ball’s defunct (but unlamented) Natural Resources Stewardship Project lists these radio hosts, and a few others, that have been most receptive to the contrarians.

Here, then, is a table of the likely radio stations (with chain affiliation) and an extra column for confirmations as they arrive. And this is where I count on Deep Climate readers to help out; if you can confirm any of the stations (or others not listed) either from your own listening, or some online source, please advise in a comment. The first to report on each city will get a grateful hat tip.

City Station Affiliation Confirmation
Victoria, BC CFAX 1070 AM CHUM (CTV) Confirmed online streaming 11/13
Vancouver, BC CKNW 980 AM Corus Comment by “Sal” at Vancouver Sun
Edmonton, AB CHED 630 AM Corus
Calgary, AB CHQR 770 AM Corus
Regina, SK CJME 980 AM Rawlco h/t bsharp55
Saskatoon, SK CKOM 650 AM Rawlco h/t bsharp55
Winnipeg, MB CJOB 680 AM Corus
Thunder Bay, ON ?
London, ON CFPL 980 AM Corus
Kitchener/Waterloo, ON 570 AM Rogers
Ottawa, ON CFRA 580 FM Confirmed online streaming 11/18
Toronto, ON CFMJ 640 AM Corus
Montreal, QC CHOM 97.7 FM Astral h/t goingconcern
Halifax, NS ?
St. John’s, NL ?
Fredericton, NB ?

List of stations running FoS ads (updated 11/23/2009)

James Hoggan, founder of and author with Richard Littlemore of the best-selling Climate Coverup, is finally making headway in drawing national attention to the resurgent Friends of Science. His recent speech in Toronto led to coverage of the radio ad campaign in the Globe and Mail. But continued stonewalling by Friends of Science has resulted in a dearth of details concerning funding or even the responsible public relations agent.

However, it would also be helpful to start asking the right questions, based on reasonable inferences. The above list of radio stations provides one avenue: a good starting point would be to contact Corus Radio to ask some pointed questions about who contracted the radio ads, and Corus’s policy on accepting ads that blatantly misinform the public.

In general, advertisers in Canada are self-regulated through Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), which has published a code of conduct:

1. Accuracy and Clarity

(a) Advertisements must not contain inaccurate or deceptive claims, statements, illustrations or representations …

(e) Both in principle and practice, all advertising claims and representations must be supportable. …

(f) The entity that is the advertiser in an advocacy advertisement must be clearly identified as the advertiser in either or both the audio or video portion of the advocacy advertisement.

Clearly, the Friends of Science advertisements do include “deceptive or inaccurate” claims that are not “supportable”. As well, although the Friends of Science website is mentioned, the ad sponsor is not clearly identified.

Rules vary within the industry, but ASC does offer pre-clearance of advertisements. In fact, Corus Radio rules appear to require such pre-clearance:

Each advertisement must contain Advertising Standards Canada’s approval, failing which, the Station will not broadcast the advertisement and the Purchaser shall be liable for full payment therefore.

(The ASC also has a mechanism for complaints by the public, an option that would appear to be warranted in this case).

Producing and placing the ads was clearly a major project, requiring an experienced PR consultant at the helm. In this case, all indications point to longtime oil and gas industry lobbyist Morten Paulsen.

Paulsen, who also has played various volunteer roles within Stephen Harper’s Coneservative party, certainly has the qualifications for the job. He managed the notorious 2005-6 Friends of Science ad campaign that attacked the then-Liberal governments Kyoto policies. The ads were aimed at key ridings in Ontario during the 2006 federal election campaign, and were explicitly intended by Friends of Science to affect the election.

Last year, Paulsen left his post as Alberta regional vice-president at Fleishman-Hillard, after a two-year tenure that included lobbying of the newly elected Conservative government on behalf of Friends of Science and participation in a scurrilous attack on DesmogBlog founder James Hoggan.

More recently, Paulsen appears to have played a key, if hidden, role in the recent resurgence of Friends of Science. He was listed as the author of the official Friends of Science press release announcing Lord Christopher Monckton’s Canadian tour. It is therefore reasonable to infer that he arranged that tour, although actual publicity was handled by the hosts in each venue.

All of which brings us up to the current ad campaign. Interestingly, all the Ontario markets listed above, except Toronto, were also targeted in the 2005-6 campaign, so those stations were likely the same in both campaigns.

As for funding, there are still no answers to the continued questions that surround the Science Education Fund at the Calgary Foundation. But it is worth noting that Morten Paulsen’s radio ad and lobbying projects were the primary beneficiaries of the previous incarnation of the Fund when it was used as a conduit to Barry Cooper’s University of Calgary climate “research” fund from late 2005 up to August, 2006.

And, as we noted previously, there has been close co-operation between the Winnipeg-based Frontier Centre for Public Policy and Friends of Science ever since the closure of Barry Cooper’s fund by the University of Calgary. That gives rise to the reasonable inference that some, or even most, of the $200,000 (and counting) granted to the Frontier Centre in the past year has really supported the Friends of Science via the back door. So far, though, the Calgary Foundation has refused to answer questions about the ultimate destination of the grants from the Science Education Fund, the supported projects, or even whether funded activities have continued beyond last March (the end of the Foundation’s fiscal year).

And here’s another unanswered question: Why would the Calgary Foundation, supposedly dedicated to the social betterment of the city of Calgary, host a donor-directed fund that is ostensibly supporting a think tank in Winnipeg, two provinces and hundreds of miles away?


38 responses to “Friends of Science hits the airwaves

  1. I can verify that at least one of the ads has been playing on the Regina/Saskatoon Rawlco stations (980 and 650 broadcast simultaneously). I listen to Gormley many mornings to hear the ‘state of the art’ in denialism and have heard the ad during his show.

  2. DC,

    FOS have been reported to CRTC, not attacking their funding, but point out the errors and misinformation contained in their ads. They were reported over a week ago, and as of today nothing back from CRTC.

    The G&M had a piece on them and the ad campaign is costing them 60-65K per week. So the whole campaign is costing them close to 250K, and that is before they had to fork out money for the Monckton tour. Someone with deep pockets is clearly funding them.

    Anyhow, people have critiqued the fact that their has been much focus on their funding sources, and not on the “science” on their page and in the ads.

    The weakness of the FOS is their “science”. We need to expose the misleading, distorted and even fallacious “science” disseminated by FOS and contained on their web page.

  3. ML,
    I believe both aspects are important, but the blatant distortions of science are sometimes lost in media coverage (the G+M story to which I linked above, is a good example of this).

    In my view, the ad campaign is a clear example of false advertising. As I mentioned above, one obvious avenue for complaint about the demonstrably false “science” is Advertising Standards Canada. It’s also not clear whether ASC pre-approved the ad, as Corus standard purchasing terms apparently require.

    I’m working on getting the “false advertising” issue, which does speak to the fallacious science, more exposure in the media.

  4. > And here’s another unanswered question: Why would the Calgary Foundation, supposedly dedicated to the social betterment of the city of Calgary, host a donor-directed fund that is ostensibly supporting a think tank in Winnipeg, two provinces and hundreds of miles away?

    Can you ask them, and report back? Just get them to try to explain this on the record…

  5. DC,

    I’m a Canadian studying at an American law school – so I don’t know necessarily know anything about Canadian broadcasting/advertising law/regulation, AND what I’m about to say absolutely does not constitute a *legal opinion or advice* – BUT:

    The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards also *seems* to specifically exclude political advertising, which may very well apply to the Fiends of Science ads.


    Definitions –

    “Political advertising” is defined as “advertising” appearing at any time regarding a political figure, a political party, a political or government policy or issue, or an electoral candidate.

    Exclusions –

    Political and Election Advertising

    Canadians are entitled to expect that “political advertising” and “election advertising” will respect the standards articulated in the Code. However, it is not intended that the Code govern or restrict the free expression of public opinion or ideas through “political advertising” or “election advertising,” which are excluded from the application of this Code.

    • The Code refers to “advocacy advertising” in section 1 quoted above. The FoS ads are not expressly political, and are so general that they probably would not fall under the definition of “election advertising” (if there were election on).

      Even the previous ads in 2005-6 were found by Elections Canada not to be political, and those were much more overt in attacking the the Liberal government. I disagreed with EC in that case, of course, but here I don’t see an application of the “political” exclusion rule.

      In fact, I think, FoS is clearly trying to be “apolitical” to avoid the criticism that greeted their last ad campaign. But in doing so they are subject to ASC rules, just like any other advocacy advertiser.

  6. Reinhard Bösch

    The ASC code of conduct could have been such a valuable help for the leading scientists at CRU.

    [DC: This is definitely off-topic here and further comments will likely be edited or deleted. But you can discuss this at Real Climate or elsewhere.]

  7. If you think the CRTC is going to censor radio ads becuase you feel that they are misleading give me a break.

    The CRTC has to prove conclusively that the ads are wrong and that is what climate science has failed to do for 25+ years.

    [Off-topic portion deleted.]

    I had my eyes opened recently by the FOS and the Hadley hack and I have come to the conclusion that global warming is either completely false or much more hysteria than an actual problem. Watch millions of other Canadians come to this realization of the coming months and years. Climate change is the Y2K of the new millenia, much ado about nothing.

    • I love it when you deniers show your ignorance. The hacked e-mails and data came from the CRU at the University of East Anglia.

      The Hadley Center is in Exeter, on the other side of the UK.

      Just goes to show that you just cut and paste from denier sites without any fact checking.

  8. Found your site after hearing/googling these ridiculous ads on Montreal radio station CHOM-FM, owned by Astral Media.

    Very likely they are also airing sister English stations CJAD-AM and CJFM-FM (Virgin Radio), as their past poor advertising practices (clearly hard-up, they have aired snake-oil type ads such as “colon spackle cleansers”, etc.) usually apply to all three. The Montreal English radio scene is just that sad…

  9. Cam,

    The ads are wrong and/or misleading. Anyone with some background can explain to you exactly why and how that is so. However, would you be willing to listen??
    Or are you convinced that the CRU email fiasco nullifies all the many decades science by thousands of scientists from across the world (over about 2900 scientists in climate related fields alone) and from many scientific disciplines (ecology etc.)?
    FOS are a propaganda machine for big oil, their goal is to confuse people (like you), because they know that when people are confused they tend to do nothing, and that is what big business and big oil want. It is tobacco all over again, but bigger, much bigger.
    I am a scientist (meteorologist) and FOS most certainly do not speak for me! The name ‘”Friends” of science’ is a complete misnomer. They (FOS) distort and manipulate data/graphs, and widely disseminate misinformation and half truths, knowing full well that doing so is wrong.
    Also, these people are receiving huge amounts of money from big business to fund this propaganda campaign.
    I’m saddened to read that you have bought into their (FOS) lies and deception. Those in denial are now doing the same with the stolen CRU emails. Please, don’t make the same mistake twice.

  10. Cam Mackay,
    The FoS ad states:

    “there’s been no warming for ten years … in fact, it’s been cooling.”

    The 2000s have been much warmer than the 1990s – by 0.17C to 0.19C on average in the surface global temperature series.

    Not only that but there has been a slight upward trend over the last ten years, not cooling.

    For example see this chart of the average of two surface and two tropospheric global temperature series (GISS, HadCRU, RSS and UAH).

    The FoS ad statement is clearly false.

    Thanks for the Montreal confirmation.

  11. Apparently Dave Rutherford is slamming AGW now (according to Cam Mackay at DeSmogBlog, I don’t listen to that stuff).

  12. Umm, it’s 12:15 pm here in Calgary, not 7:15 pm.

  13. I won’t post too much here as of the censorship, but it really makes sense to give global warming a rethink right now. The FOS ads raise some good arguements and then the fact that scientists from the IPCC themselves privately are sceptical about climate change.

    Why would it not be a wise idea to start to re-examine the data and research as we know their are many problems with them. Even the 10 years of cooling we have experienced was discussed in the IPCC e-mails and was confirmed as 10 years of cooling not waring as a previous commentator discussed.

    I don’t know if AGW is for real or not but it certainly looks like we need to give it some more study before making any rash financial decisions that could bankrupt our country. Taking the time to get this one right will benefit us all.

    • I’m sure the residents flooded out on Vancouver Island and in Cumbria will not take kindly to your advice of :

      Taking the time to get this one right will benefit us all.

      In fact the longer the delay in starting to do something about the effects of AGW, the more it will cost in the long term and the more people will have to suffer the results of climate change.

      Deniers like you never even consider the long term, you are only interested in your selfish selves.

  14. Cam MacKay,

    This is a moderated blog. The comment policy is clear, and within that I allow a fair latitude. I’ve been fairly patient with you, but I make no apology for having a policy and applying it. Your accusations of “censorhip” are ludicrous.

    I have laid out the facts about the supposed “10 years of cooling”, but you refuse to accept the evidence and continue to hold on to misinterpretations you have gleaned at other blogs.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree, but the facts are plain. And they are not on your side.

    Before you post again, please review the comment policy, especially regarding redundancy and sticking on topic.


  15. I can’t see a single accurate statement in Cam’s last post, must we really put up with this kind of stuff here?

  16. Cam, it is even worse than you think: During the last several years, there has been a very weak sun and La Nina which both lead to a cooler climate. However, the climate has gotten warmer instead!

    Despite numerous claims that global warming ended in 1998, 2001, or 2003, the data shows these claims are groundless.

    19 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the past 25 years. The warmest years globally have been 1998 and 2005 with the years 2002, 2007, and 2003 close behind.

    The warmest decade has been the last ten years and the warming has been widespread globally.

    Surface temperatures north of latitude 60o are warming at an accelerated rate in the past few decades.

    The Arctic was experiencing long-term cooling in the past 2000 years according to Milankovitch cycles until very recently. The cooling trend was reversed during the 20th century, with four of the five warmest decades of the 2000-year-long reconstruction occurring between 1950 and 2000.

    Sea ice extent has been dramatically reduced since 1979.

    Since measurements began in 2004, there has been a dramatic decrease in sea ice thickness.

    Greenland is losing ice mass and the rate is accelerating.

    Antarctica is losing ice mass and the rate is accelerating.

    The average mass balance of the glaciers with available long-term observation series around the world continues to decrease.

    90% of worldwide glaciers are retreating.

    Much of the heat that is delivered by the sun is stored in the Earth’s oceans while only a fraction of this heat is stored in the atmosphere. Therefore, a change in the heat stored in the ocean is a better indicator of climate change than changes in atmospheric heat.
    The heat content of the oceans is increasing.

    etc., etc., etc.

    All of this stuff is out there in many places if you look for it.

  17. Yesterday, I wrote to one of the CHOM DJs in Montreal, who forwarded my email “up the food chain.” I got a response from Martin Spalding, the VP, GM of Astral Media Radio Inc apparently in charge of CHOM, CJAD, and Virgin Radio in Montreal. Here’s his email:


    Thank you for your comments.

    The views expressed are those of the advertiser and do not reflect those of Astral Media Radio. The Friends of Science Society respect the advertising code of Canada and have not broken any rules. We are fortunate that in Canada issues such global warming are open for debate, and opinions can be expressed freely.

    The Friends of Science Society encourage your comments and invite the discussion. If you would like to contact them, you can do so at:

    Or by mail:

    Friends of Science Society
    P.O. Box 23167, Connaught Post Office
    Calgary, AB T2S 3B1

    We appreciate the time you have taken to write to us, your comments are important and we hope that you will continue listening to CHOM-FM.


    Martin Spalding

    Vice-President, General Manager”

    My response was that I’ve contacted colleagues in the Faculty of Law at my university to see if we can file some sort of CRTC complaint, and that I’ll be discussing this issue with the classes I teach as an example of the politics of climate change.

    Also, thanks for your blog, and keep up the good work!

  18. Also, from the ASC links provided above, could we not make an argument that FoScience is making what amount to professional or scientific claims but that those claims contraven the following:

    “8. Professional or Scientific Claims

    Advertisements must not distort the true meaning of statements made by professionals or scientific authorities. Advertising claims must not imply that they have a scientific basis that they do not truly possess. Any scientific, professional or authoritative claims or statements must be applicable to the Canadian context, unless otherwise clearly stated.”

  19. ScottM,

    Thanks for pursuing this. Looks like they gave you a polite PFO. If what FOS has done is considered legal, then some serious revisions need to be made to advertising standards in Canada!

  20. I hope no one will mind if I post the following announcement — which I believe is relevant as it concerns the personal attacks upon climatologists that represents a new level of hostility in the denialist campaign against science and climatology.

    Beginning with:

    Competitive Enterprise Institute to sue RealClimate blogger over moderation policy, comment 19
    November 26, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    … I outline a possible response to the personal attacks upon individual climatologists including the hacking of email belonging to climatologists at Hadley CRU for the purpose of a disinformation campaign and the declaration by the Competitive Enterprise Institute of the intent to launch a lawsuit against Gavin Schmidt of Real Climate. I give figures for the funding of the Competitve Enterprise Institute by Exxon, Scaife, Bradley, Koch and Coors foundations and — while it yet has to show up — more broadly funding received by denialist organizations from the Scaife, Bradley, Koch and Coors foundations where the denialist organizations are also part of the Exxon-funded network for attacking climatology – to the tune of over $230,000,000. Note that for this last part, assuming it doesn’t show up right away, it is essentially the same as what I included in the comment on Saturday 2009-10-31 at 20:44 below the following post at Desmog Blog:

    Halloween Murder Mystery: Who is killing Copenhagen?
    30 October 09

  21. Pingback: In the beginning: Friends of Science, Talisman Energy and the de Freitas brothers « Deep Climate

  22. [DC: Removed – off-topic and abusive.]

  23. I took Astral Media to task over this and actually got invited to meet with a V-P to discuss it last week. I couldn’t believe the claptrap that came out of this guy’s mouth and I left the meeting with less respect for Astral media than before.

    Would you like to hear more?

    [DC: Sure – as long as it’s printable.]


    PS Astral media owns CJAD am 800, CHOM 97.7 as well as Virgin radio here in Montreal. I am boycotting all of them plus a selection of their advertisers.

  24. The meeting was with Martin Spalding, V-P of Astral media and the purpose was to follow up on my complaint that they were running global warming denial ads. At our meeting he made it clear they have no problem with running ads like these and they would happily accept more advertising money from the (so-called) friends of Science.
    The man is obviously not an environmentalist as he actually boasted about having a carbon footprint equivalent to about 4 times that of my entire family. This will all make sense to you when I tell you he has a background that includes nearly a decade of working for Formula-1 racing. If ever there was an industry that symbolized disregard for the environment and blatant overconsumption this would be it.

    There’s more and I would like to expand on what I am preparing to do next but I have to attend to work for the moment. Stay tuned.

  25. Good job Wayne. I for one would be interested to hear more.

  26. He also told me that he recycles, now doesn’t that make everything better?

    In my next installment I will tell you what he said when I quizzed him about his knowledge of the “Friends of Science” (whom I prefer to call the “Fiends of Science”)

  27. He also told me that he recycles, now doesn’t that make everything better?

    And Watts drives an electric car, as does Burt Rutan.

    Apparently this “proves” that they’re really good people concerned about the planet, which is why they’re so earnestly telling people climate science is a fraud …

  28. When I asked Martin Spalding of Asral Media who the Friends of Science of Science were and where they got their financing he replied that they were a lobby group who were “probably” funded by the investors of the Fort MacMurray tar sand project. Don’t you just love the “probably” part?

    Then I quizzed him about honesty policy and pointed out that the CBC have an editorial policy to not give any more air time to global warming deniers since that debate is basically over and they moved on to talking about what we should do. His reaction to that was to say, oh, the CBC are not credible because they get their money from the government. Say what? Astral Media accepts their money from Big Oil but it’s CBC that’s not credible? How twisted is that???

    Stay tuned there’s more…

    [DC: I’m sure the money sources behind this campaign are resolutely hidden. However, it is interesting that Spalding would think it is legitimate for tar sands investors to fund such a campaign.]

  29. Then there’s the contradiction. When I first pressed the issue Spalding gave me the line that this is a free country and refusing the Fiends of Science advertising dollars would be a form of censorship. So I tested him with the scenario of President Ahmadinejad of Iran wanting to buy advertising on behalf of Friend of Humanity to promote his holocaust denial message and to that he said they would definitely refuse their advertising dollars.
    Hypocricy confirmed…

    [DC: A more apt comparison would be accepting advertising from tobacco company surrogates that would cast doubt on the scientific evidence demonstrating the harmful effects of second hand smoke.]

  30. I agree; I thought of that afterwards. One would not be surprised to find the Friends of Science run by some of the same “scientists” who aided the pro tobacco lobby.

    [DC: APCO Worlwide, the PR firm that actually executed the first Friends of Science major project, has a long history of aiding dubious clients, including Philip Morris. See this post by DeSmogblog founder James Hoggan.]

  31. HA, It’s amusing to watch your scorn for a small group of scientists simply trying to educate the public. They subsist on a budget of between 15,000 to 40,000 per year or more than some guy earning minimum wage. Big Oil funding Indeed, in the meantime Big Oil is busy throwing money at Global warming alarmism in millions. Truley every dollar a skeptic receives is outmatched by 100 going to some alarmist group. You can confirm this yourself by simply checking the financial statements of every large oil corporation.

    [DC: Most of the expenditures have little to do with global warming, although some appear to be laudable. However, Imperial Oil refuses to disclose its past (and current, if any) donations to Fraser Institute, Friends of Science/APCO and the rest.

    As for FoS, it’s ludicrous to suggest that funding of the Monckton tour and the 2009 radio ad campaign could have come solely from the ostensible budget you mention. Since you seem to have some knowledge of FoS affairs perhaps you can enlighten us as to the total cost of those initiatives, and the sources of funding.]

    Even the Guardian has flipped, don’t be the last one holding the AGW baggage, in 5 years you will not be able to find one person that will admit to having believed in this junk science.

    [DC: The Guardian has seen fit to engage the mistake-prone Fred Pearce, a sad case indeed. His lack of scientific expertise appears to be matched by his lack of egal expertise.]

    Best of luck hope you guys wake up soon.

  32. You can search a favorite Alarmist resource Sourcewatch and get some of the annual returns for FOS, you will see that their finances are nowhere near Greenpeace or David suzuki’s alarmist group.

    In reality attacking FOS for the peanuts in funding they have while ignoring all the funds going to greenpeace is like Bill Gates complaining that a guy earning minimum wage is rich.

    All that these goliath trying to kill david threads accomplish is to reinforce the belief that global warming is too weak a theory to stand up to any scrutiny at all.

    [DC: You didn’t read that article very carefully. The article makes clear that the major projects, including the APCO video, the targeted ads during the 2006 federal election, and Fleishman-Hillard lobbying, were all funded from “research and education” funds *outside* the regular FoS budget. Even FoS admits this.]

  33. Pingback: Thinking Big…With Small Minds « Spotlight on Politics

  34. I noticed the ads on a local radio station last year (107.5 Dave FM Kitchener/Waterloo) I had nearly forgotten about them till just this evening when a similar ad was played with similar false statements proclaiming “no big oil money here!” Sickening.