The Brent Spar debate raised fundamental questions over the reporting of
environmental issues, Shell UK chairman and chief executive Dr Chris Fay
said this week.
Speaking in Cardiff at the Centre for Journalism Studies conference -
Reporting the Environment - Dr Fay said the media had failed to convey
the complex science and technology issues central to the environmental
‘My point is that environmental science is much more complex than the
impression we often gain from the media,’ he said in a speech entitled:
‘Not Black and White but Shades of Green’.
He added: ‘I can appreciate that describing technical data and detailed
risk evaluation is difficult for busy journalists. But it reflects the
reality of the choices society must make.’
Dr Fay also accused Greenpeace of managing the debate with ‘simplistic
allegations’ and exploiting TV imagery.
‘Like all good spin doctors, they knew how to manage the debate with a
flow of simplistic allegations - the daily ‘curve ball’.
‘They knew that activists in rubber boats among the massive ironmongery
of the North Sea made good television; David and Goliath,’ he added.
He said Shell had faced difficulties getting its arguments heard among
‘such compelling visuals, simple arguments and sensational allegations’.
But Fay admitted Shell had been slow to communicate its standpoint to
overseas audiences - those with ‘less understanding of the local
context’. He said Brent Spar had also raised issues over how to
reconcile wealth creation and environmental protection.
According to Fay, companies will need to become ‘more open about their
activities, more ready to debate issues and more responsive to people’s
concerns’ in the future.