Saturday, November 27, 2004

Give them a stick…

Give the BBC a stick, and it will grab it wholeheartedly from the wrong end, with the lack of professionalism and impartiality for which it is fast becoming a by-word.

This is amply illustrated by its reporting on latest developments in the ongoing saga about the multi-national fusion research project, known as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

When we started covering the story on this Blog , the project, described as the largest global research and development collaboration ever undertaken, had first been pencilled in to go to Japan. Then the EU had put its foot down, demanding that France should be the beneficiary, pledging to finance 40 percent of the €10 billion budget.

Understandably, the Japanese – with US support – demurred and, as the story developed, the EU – in a remarkable display of petulance – threatened to pull out of the project all together, and develop its own, independent project at the French site, while – amazingly - still expecting Japan to contribute to its costs.

Now, with the issue still unresolved, the EU has upped the ante. Still demanding that the project be established in France, it has told its potential partners that it wants "a political agreement before the end of the year,"

French research minister, Francois D'Aubert, then has the nerve to say: "This is not an ultimatum…" adding, "If the negotiations do not come to a rapid conclusion, the commission has the possibility to choose a different path."

Tellingly, the EU is making no public claims about the superiority of the French site, whereas the Japanese are adamant that theirs is the best candidate, and are upset by EU's bullying tactics, accusing it of being "high-handed". "It is extremely regrettable," says Takahiro Hayashi, deputy director of the Office of Fusion Energy at Japan's energy ministry. "We hope that the EU will handle this matter appropriately and honestly."

The office's director, Satoru Ohtake, was slightly less diplomatic. "The two sides have different ideas, and therefore we should take time to have good discussions," he said, adding: "The fact that they are setting a deadline for their rival to make a concession is something like a declaration of war."

All this, however, the BBC news website covers, but gives the story the heading, "EU gets tough on fusion reactor". At least the Guardian was more honest, proclaiming in its version of the story, "EU 'declaration of war' over fusion", more than Channel 4 News could manage. Alluding to US support for Japan, it described the story in terms of the plucky EU battling against the prejudice of the Bush presidency.

As we said, give them a stick…

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.