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.
|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|
|St. John’s, NL||?|
List of stations running FoS ads (updated 11/23/2009)
James Hoggan, founder of Desmogblog.com 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?