A company which has a licence to harvest seaweed in West Cork has said that it received online threats of sabotage after a programme on the topic aired on television.
The claim was made in a complaint by Kerry-based BioAtlantis about an episode of EcoEye on RTÉ last February.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland compliance committee partly upheld the complaint, in which it was claimed by the firm that it was clearly the target of criticisms and unfounded fears.
BioAtlantis has received a licence to mechanically harvest kelp in Bantry Bay, but the company was not directly named in the 25-minute programme.
However, it complained that it was not contacted to offer alternative views to those of other contributors, despite being the first company in Ireland or the UK licensed to harvest kelp.
“The complainant states that since the programme was aired, threats have been made online to interfere with and ‘sabotage’ BioAtlantis activities,” said the BAI’s report of the case.
The BAI compliance committee did not uphold the complaint that the programme included false statements, sensationalist claims, or attempts to convey to the audience that BioAtlantis is not committed to environmental sustainability or compliance with EU rules.
However, it found that the programme had a singular viewpoint on the issues around harvesting seaweed, and it upheld the complaint of a breach of the authority’s code of fairness, objectivity and impartiality in news and current affairs.
The BAI said this was demonstrated by emotive language of contributors, one of whom 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,” said the BAI.
RTÉ’s rebuttal of the complaint said there was no suggestion that mechanical harvesting should be banned in the programme, 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 said that no position had been taken by the programme on whether mechanical harvesting should happen, but to ignore issues pertinent to this method of harvesting would be to suppress information and act outside the public interest.
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