Seaweed firm got threats after TV show
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.