BP funding feature-length film on oil spill by its own video PR firm


Wake up and good morning. BP – of Gulf oil spill infamy – is commissioning a feature-length film about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill while insisting the cinematic enterprise is not meant to scrub its reputation clean. According to the New York Times story here, London-based (British, like BP) World Television is working on the longer feature. It’s the same firm that’s already produced short Web videos that show the many ways BP has responded to the spill.

Is this objective documentary or cleverly toned propaganda? Obviously, any time a company like BP funds a film about its own blunders, you can bet the film will at the least be accentuating the positive. A good clue as to the tone emerge in an existing, 12-minute video documentary already produced by World Television. It’s called “A Community Fights Back” and looks at the recovery of the tourism economy in Florida, Louisiana and Alabama. BP’s Web site calls it a “mini-documentary” though after watching it, the film more accurately comes across as a “chamber of commerce” styled piece that shows upbeat gulf coast people – a Destin (Fla.) chamber of commerce chief, for example, and restaurant owners – who acknowledge they’ve taken some lumps from the BP spill but insist that the gulf coast problems were exaggerated. Earlier oil spills on beaches are shown but mainly in the context of how well BP remains in rushing in with plenty of resources to continue any necessary clean-up. Look at the 12-minute film here.

World Television’s own Web site says it best: “Since 1991 World Television has been supporting the communications and brand strategies of over 450 of the world’s largest companies and organisations.”

The New York Times story notes World Television had been BP’s main “internal video producer” for the last decade. World Television has started lining up interviews with journalists and other figures for the film, the story notes. The company did not respond to New York Times requests for comment. In total, World Television has completed about 190 Web videos about the oil spill this year, some of which are still available on BP.com.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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