ANOTHER VIEW; Brent Spar hangover

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The Independent Online
Greenpeace is amazed and angered by the assertions at the Edinburgh TV Festival that television companies were "conned" by our campaign to prevent the dumping of the Brent Spar oil platform. This is patently untrue.

Both ITN and the BBC were invited on to the Brent Spar platform by Greenpeace in the early stages of the campaign, but both declined. Other broadcasters who did send reporters have not complained about their interaction with Greenpeace nor about any limitations placed on them in their coverage.

A BBC Scotland correspondent who was on a Greenpeace vessel towards the end of the campaign pointed out at Edinburgh that only by being on site could he verify what was happening. But if a news organisation decides not to cover the event, it is hardly fair to blame Greenpeace for offering its video footage.

Greenpeace, a not-for-profit organisation with limited budget and vessels, is often unable to satisfy media demands for space for cameramen, technicians and reporters. In the South Pacific a handful of media organisations have been offered one spot each on a Greenpeace vessel - to do with as they choose. Should they wish to send a cameraman rather than a reporter and make arrangements to transmit their own pictures, Greenpeace would gladly co-operate. None has chosen to do so. And if the media are not comfortable covering a particular protest by being on board a Greenpeace vessel, there is nothing to stop them arranging their own vessels, equipment and/or reporters as they see fit.

Greenpeace also stands accused of obscuring the scientific arguments over Brent Spar. We tried, on a number of occasions, to interest the press in the scientific and engineering dimensions of Brent Spar - in a report last year and at a more recent press conference. Both were largely ignored. Subsequently, having decided that Greenpeace was "right on values but wrong on science", the media have refused to re-examine the arguments of those scientists who dispute Shell's safety claims.

The lessons for the media after Brent Spar are twofold. First, to verify your story, be there. Second, the Brent Spar aroused strong emotions not because of poor science but because the UK Government and Shell Oil defended their own interests using science as a false justification. Greenpeace, along with most international governments and millions of people, believe it is wrong to dump industrial waste at sea and that point of view deserves as much coverage as any other.

The media got drunk on the drama of the Brent Spar story and now they blame us for the hangover. With 24 years of credibility riding on Greenpeace's campaigns, science and media work, we refuse to accept the loose logic of those who blame us for their own limited media coverage.

The writer is programme director of Greenpeace UK.

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