Monday, 3 February 2014

Does John Campbell's coverage of Noble Bob Douglas's "some success" mean an about face?

Still green Mr Campbell?
Tonight a story presented by John Campbell has caught the ire of some hardworking folks fighting to keep our local environment a fit place for New Zealander's to prosper, calling into question the direction John Campbell may be taking his coverage of the issues.

This story is introduced as a quick update, and at about 3 minutes 4 seconds, it is likely a story that was squeezed in last minute, these things happen in news cycles. Early in this story on tonight's programme John Campbell's item points to the impressive piece of technology that is the exploration ship (Ig)Nobel Bob Douglas , so impressive it costs $1m/day to run. Impressive, yes, it is. Virtuous, hardly, but that was not mentioned in the clip.

The piece mainly focuses on opinions in Raglan while the introduction does mention that Raglan gets the bulk of the risks, and few of the benefits. Lines like "And not always sitting the newly lawful distance away." allude to the dodgy Mining and Resources Act clause introduced last year. "In short Raglan gets the environmental risk, although it would have to be a catastrophic spill to reach here, without the direct economic benefit Taranaki would enjoy."

One person interviewed, talked about how as consumers people like himself are part of the "problem". He seemed ambivalent about the value of Anadarko's exploration in New Zealand. Odd logic really, even an addict committed to recovery can understand and say rehab is good and understand that their supplier should be kept at some distance. And their are viable alternatives, it is just a matter of developing the scale. Ethanol+vegetable oil -> esters (aka bio diesel), runs nicely in a diesel motor with a little tuning. To be fair, it is easy to find people who haven't quite thought things through, or are not fully acquainted with the available options. Jo Averge with a mic shoved in his face rarely the thoughtful creature they are in more pensive moments.

Another person, was enthusiastically in favour  of exploration. Which is still a position held by more than one third of the public, though that number is falling. Clearly the position of the unrepentant addict, like the boozer that says "It's only few. I'm just being social. I'm not hurting anyone."

And the last person, essentially noted that the oil company staff wont have anything to do with Raglan and that "it would do Raglan no good at all." This makes a very good point that Raglan and much of the country will see little benefit from exploration. Our royalties are among the cheapest in the OECD, the government's role in this deal is like a dip-sh*t dad that opens to two men who "We're burglars, we've come to do your house." To this, the dad says "Sure fellas, will it take long? The wife will be home in thirty minutes."

One person noted how the jobs were highly specialized and that he did not know anyone in the industry.  Which does bring forth the issue, that while the industry will create jobs, they will not be filled from our local work force, but from imported expertise.

The (ig)Noble Bob douglas is reported to have had "some success". Which suggests oil or gas were found. While a full report is expected on Wednesday, the signal can for now represent at least three possibilities.

Worst case: They found oil or gas at commercially viable pressure,  which means the carbon addicts will be back to get their fix, putting our local environment at risk and putting the global climate deeper into chaos, destabilization and extreme weather.

Best case: They found oil or or gas at very low pressure making extraction non viable. In which case, Anadarko so nice to see you leave.

In the middle - but still very bad, the pressure is low, but high enough that pumping water into to the reserve will mean that they still make a profit from extraction even though  it will cost them. Extraction may even involve fracking.

This analysis was not offered during the coverage of the story. Perhaps as a breaking story there wasn't enough time to prepare an analysis or time in the show to present it.

I note that John Campbell is a journalist, an item like this is news. And so he reported it. While he seemed a little too excited in reporting the story, the question remains is that because he's reporting a big news item on a big issue(a journo's wet dream) or because he now thinks the find is a good thing, is faking it under instruction, or is just rushing to get through it in 3 minutes. He also pointed to some risks of the exploration. To some extent it could be considered he said/she said fake balance coverage, if you miss his somewhat non specific pointing to the risks that Raglan faces. Risks that John Campbell's audience should by now be quite familiar with.

If there is an about turn in Campbell Live's coverage of the issue, I don't see it. It would be an important shift, that I would hope not to see. But if someone can show me evidence of such a shift I'd like to see it. Such things are not unheard of and now that they've found what they are looking for, it is possible that they just dropped a big advertising contract on MediaWork's sales desk. But I need more evidence in order to accept that a U-turn has taken place.

Can we  see Simon Bridges loosing his cool on the show again - now that is what I call full disclosure.

See also
    Campbell Live reports Anadarko's  "some success" drilling off Taranaki.

It appears that while a possible imbargo may have been in place last last as Campbell Live reported "some success" in a story titled "Has Anadarko found oil of the coast of Taranki?" Any gleeful body language might be attributable to knowing that Anadarko came up empty-handed. Apparently "some success" means "We drilled and it didn't blow up in our faces." And that is oil industry success I can live with.

But they are still exploring, and heading to a site off the Otago coast. I''m hoping for similar results. After that there is the Pegasus Basin site off the Kaikoura coast where MV Duke is engaged in seismic testing, deafening whales dolphin etc. But surely who would question a large multinational trying to make a buck  while #$%@ing the wildlife that drives existing local industry. Anyone with a thought in their head I would say, but I'm crazy like that.

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