Exclusive: Government spends more than £50k on pro-fracking videos

by Search Gate staff. Published Fri 04 Sep 2015 17:45, Last updated: 2015-09-05
DECC splashes out on fracking industry "propaganda" films

Energy Ministers have been heavily criticised after spending more than £50,000 of taxpayers’ money on the production of three films that promote the fracking industry.

The videos were created by a London content agency and reject public fears over the risks to both health and the environment from shale gas sites.

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said the three-minute clips were designed to give people the information they need to know about the potential shale industry and added she hoped it “will go a long way to informing debate”.

Despite increasing public concern, the films make no mention of the growing body of evidence that links fracking to health issues, increased emissions or the rise in earthquake activity.

It also makes no reference to plunging property prices, increased heavy traffic and the damage to nature.

Briefing notes handed to Search Gate under a Freedom of Information request also reveal how civil servants were eager to carefully manipulate the image portrayed to the public.

Equipment above the ground was removed from animations and the policy-makers were keen to make the film appear “more sober or scientific”. Suggestions about the video’s “colour palette” were also exchanged between Whitehall mandarins and the film-makers.

At a time when cash-strapped DECC is withdrawing subsidy support for the renewable energy sector, campaigners are questioning if the project was an appropriate use of public funds.

Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth CEO, told Search Gate: “It’s disgraceful that DECC has wasted so much public money on marketing unpopular fracking to the UK public - spending around £27 per view, whilst simultaneously threatening our solar industry for an estimated saving of £6 a year on electricity bills.

“Wherever fracking is proposed, it is opposed – instead of frittering away money on a shale gas charm offensive, the Government should be supporting the growth of renewable energy which remains popular with the public.”

And Hannah Martin, Greenpeace Energy campaigner, commented: "With public support for fracking at an all-time low, the Government is resorting to any tactic to try to sell shale to a reluctant nation.

“Spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to create films that are essentially pro-fracking industry propaganda is an outrageous waste of money. This is particularly galling when the Government is cutting support for clean and popular renewable energy that makes environmental and economic sense."

Analysis of the latest set of DECC accounts reveals the department spent a total of £55,508.50 on the project, which was launched last month. One of the films has so far been watched by fewer than 290 people.

A DECC spokesperson said: “Shale gas has huge potential – not just for a whole new industry in Britain, creating jobs and growth, but also to help us move to cleaner, more secure British energy supplies. These videos help people find out the facts about shale gas and how it is regulated. They have only recently been launched and will be used more widely as the shale gas industry grows.”

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