Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
BP has been skittish about letting the public see footage of the oil spill. We already know that the oil giant kept alarming video of the leak under wraps until senators demanded copies. But here's something even more problematic: yesterday, CBS shot this video of BP contractors and the Coast Guard chasing their news cameras away from an oil-slicked beach, supposedly at the behest of BP.
"These are BP's rules," one man on the boat tells the camera crew. "These are not our rules."
Why is BP calling the shots? This was a public beach. The camera crews have every right—and in fact an obligation—to show people what's going on. Why is the federal government running defense for BP?
As Karl Burkart writes over on Mother Nature Network, this isn’t the first account of reporters being barred from covering the spill. And as the environmental catastrophe continues to grow worse, "BP's federally subsidized media containment operation may soon become impossible to maintain."
UPDATE: The Deepwater Horizon Joint Information Center, the unified command office set up to deal with the spill, issued a statement saying that there are no prohibitions on journalists in place, and that they have "reiterated" to personnel that media should have access to spill-impacted sites:
Neither BP nor the U.S. Coast Guard, who are responding to the spill, have any rules in place that would prohibit media access to impacted areas and we were disappointed to hear of this incident. In fact, media has been actively embedded and allowed to cover response efforts since this response began, with more than 400 embeds aboard boats and aircraft to date. Just today 16 members of the press observed clean-up operations on a vessel out of Venice, La.
The only time anyone would be asked to move from an area would be if there were safety concerns, or they were interfering with response operations. This did occur off South Pass Monday which may have caused the confusion reported by CBS today.
The entities involved in the Deepwater Horizon/BP Response have already reiterated these media access guidelines to personnel involved in the response and hope it prevents any future confusion.