Seaweed firm got threats af­ter TV show

Irish Examiner - County - - News - Niall Mur­ray

The com­pany plan­ning to har­vest kelp seaweed in Bantry Bay said it re­ceived threats of sab­o­tage to its ac­tiv­i­ties af­ter a TV pro­gramme about the topic.

The claim was made in a partly­suc­cess­ful com­plaint about last Fe­bru­ary’s episode on RTÉ about seaweed and har­vest­ing rights.

The pro­gramme fea­tured con­cerns by some coastal com­mu­ni­ties about the im­pact of com­mer­cial com­pa­nies’ plans to me­chan­i­cally har­vest large quan­ti­ties of kelp.

Kerry-based com­pany BioAt­lantis, which has been granted a li­cence to har­vest kelp in Bantry Bay, com­plained to the Broad­cast­ing Author­ity of Ire­land (BAI) about the con­tent. It claimed the pro­gramme was very bi­ased and made a range of false state­ments and sen­sa­tion­al­ist claims.

Al­though the firm was not named in the 25-minute pro­gramme, it said it was clearly the tar­get of crit­i­cisms and un­founded fears in it, and it was not con­tacted de­spite be­ing the first com­pany in Ire­land or Bri­tain to li­censed to sus­tain­ably har­vest kelp.

The com­pany told the BAI that it ex­ports to over 35 coun­tries and em­ploys 58 peo­ple in Cork and Kerry.

“The com­plainant states that since the pro­gramme was aired, threats have been made on­line to in­ter­fere with and “sab­o­tage” BioAt­lantis ac­tiv­i­ties,” the BAI’s re­port said.

RTÉ said in its de­tailed re­sponse that it did not have scope in a 25minute pro­gramme to ref­er­ence other coun­tries like Nor­way and France where me­chan­i­cal kelp har­vest­ing takes place. It said the pro­gramme did not sug­gest me­chan­i­cal har­vest­ing should be banned, and that there was no ref­er­ence to seabed dam­age.

“Ref­er­ence was made to the sale of har­vest­ing rights on the west coast and sought to draw at­ten­tion to the po­ten­tial risks of loss of tra­di­tional har­vest­ing and the po­ten­tial risks of un­sus­tain­able cut­ting/har­vest­ing of kelp be­low that op­ti­mal range,” it said.

RTÉ also ques­tioned the ex­tent of re­search which BioAt­lantis claimed had pre­ceded the grant­ing of its li­cence and re­jected the claims of bias, false state­ments or sen­sa­tion­al­ist claims be­ing made.

It said that no po­si­tion was taken by the pro­gramme on whether me­chan­i­cal har­vest­ing should hap­pen, but to ig­nore is­sues per­ti­nent to this method would be to sup­press in­for­ma­tion and act out­side the pub­lic in­ter­est.

The BAI’s com­pli­ance com­mit­tee up­held the as­pect of the com­plaint re­lat­ing to its code of fair­ness, ob­jec­tiv­ity and im­par­tial­ity in news and cur­rent affairs.

It said in­clud­ing per­spec­tives crit­i­cal of me­chan­i­cal har­vest­ing was ed­i­to­ri­ally le­git­i­mate, but the pro­gramme had a sin­gu­lar view­point.

This, it said, was demon­strated by emo­tive lan­guage or con­trib­u­tors in sup­port of that view. For ex­am­ple, a con­trib­u­tor said “if you touch that [a part of the seaweed], it’s like killing some­one through the heart”, and “it’s like clear felling a for­est”.

“The com­mit­tee was of the opin­ion that the pro­gramme did not in­clude a range of per­spec­tive on the topic suf­fi­cient to meet the re­quire­ments of fair­ness, ob­jec­tiv­ity and im­par­tial­ity, in a con­text where it was ev­i­dent that there were other views, in­clud­ing the views of the com­plainant,” it said.

It did not find that the ev­i­dence of false state­ments, sen­sa­tion­al­ist claims or at­tempts to con­vey to the au­di­ence that BioAt­lantis is not com­mit­ted to en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity or com­pli­ance with EU reg­u­la­tions.

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