More about the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme

Here I’m reposting a comment I’ve offered on Tony Newbery’s Harmless Sky and Andrew Montford’s Bishop Hill blog in order to reduce the level of misunderstanding and misrepresentation surrounding the seminars programme:

Dear Tony
I have answered your direct questions in the past on the only occasion you have presented them to me, and recently republished the document I sent you. You are quite right: I recall now that you didn’t contact me directly but rather when DEFRA got in touch with me following an FoI from you I suggested it might be more efficient if I had direct contact with you and I got in touch and sought to answer any questions you had.

However one detail that is not answered in that document is when the seminars ended. You raise this question in your post above. The residential seminars finished in 2008 due to BBC budget cuts (the BBC always paid their own costs in relation to the seminars) when there was a blanket announcement across the organisation that there would be no residential meetings for the foreseeable future. CMEP was wrapped up formally in 2009 in the sense that I was confident I wouldn’t be organising any more residential seminars anywhere under that heading. But the BBC have run a furtherĀ  ‘Real World’ seminar in 2009 on site at Television Centre (‘Real World Seminar’ is the heading used to describe the seminars from around 2005 onwards), and I gave advice on the design of that. It was much shorter than the residential seminars, and with a small number of contributors from government, research, banking and economics backgrounds.

As an aside, these meetings started way back in 1996, just a few years into the short history of the internet. The last CMEP seminar took place in the early days of ‘web 2.0’. In the context of the rapid growth of the blogosphere, and the misunderstandings it seems capable of multiplying, I must admit that if I were starting now I would seek to publish more information online about the seminars, and would ask attendees if they mind their names being published, as well as a brief account of the seminars.

I have fitted in the work around the seminars around a demanding job and busy family life, mostly in evenings and weekends, and simply didn’t see the need or find the time to write about them for an audience I didn’t know existed. But we all live and learn.

By the way I’m sorry you understood my note about my blog post on CMEP being boring as ‘crass arrogance’. In truth I think the organisational detail about the seminars IS boring to my rather modest blog readership.

I hope to find the time this week to write a piece that describes the Creative Climate project ( The project includes some radio and TV commissions (referred to in yours and Andrew M’s blogs) and also a short film competition for students that we will launch this week. But at its heart it is an online diary project that welcomes all voices, and invites people to hold a diary on the website that plots their unfolding understanding of and action (including their blogging!) on environmental issues. The project has been forged in response to my conclusions about the limitations of the maintream media when it comes to handling complex environmental change issues and the diverse debates and activities that surround them. We hope it will be very plural, open and allow for a neutral and welcoming space where people can represent their views in their own way. I do hope you and some of your readers will consider coming to start a diary with us.


Dr. Joe Smith

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