Sunday, 18 July 2010

Deepwater Horizon and the media: A letter to auntie Beeb

I am writing concerning BBC coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf Of Mexico.

The vast majority of bulletins I have heard (mostly Radios 4 and 5, which I expect are typical of the network) quote BP sources, very often unchallenged.

Too often they have the distinct ring of a BP press release, but BP are known to have misled us with regards to the scale of the problem, especially in the early days. Treating their PR seriously is demonstrably irresponsible journalism.

The hideous scale of the ecological disaster is rarely touched on. The biggest story by far is efforts to cap the leak rather than the effect of the leak.

Words like “leak” and “spill” vastly understate the scale of what has happened.
“Spill” is appropriate to describe knocking over a glass of water, not a massive underwater volcano of oil.

In fact, the “spill” is larger than Scotland and hundreds of feet thick in parts.

Other problems such as the very unhealthy gasses coming off the oil and the health / environmental effects of the chemical dispersants are not touched on at all.
The same is true of the increase in deepwater drilling caused by increasing scarcity of oil (“peak oil”). This level of drilling is a new phenomena set to continue, so there could well be more disasters of this nature around the corner, but again the BBC appears all too mute.

There is also a news blackout being conducted in some areas of the “clean up” that the BBC generally doesn’t comment on.

Even the Panorama programme on the issue was fairly weak in apportioning responsibility or the role of Blackwater and Halliburton in what went on.

As a licence payer who often defends the BBC I require you to research and tell me precisely how much lobbying BP have done and in what form. What efforts the BBC have made to counterbalance their propaganda? As a layperson I see very little evidence of the latter.

Suffering locals sometimes get a look in, but I have yet to hear anyone from groups such as Greenpeace or the US Green Party. Should the ratio of BP commentary and other groups (including locals) not be 1:1?

What are the BBC news team going to do in future to ensure that content is not overly influenced by large corporations whose hunger for profit can be so destructive to the only planet we have?

I look forward to your reply.

Steven Durrant