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TV's Take on Big Oil | Oil Watchdog

TV's Take on Big Oil

Fri, Sep 28, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    TV's Take on Big Oil

    The Chonicle of Higher Education
    September 28, 2007

    by Staff Writers

    TV’s Take on the Influence of Big Oil

    Ripped from the headlines? This week the ABC comic-drama series
    Boston Legal offered up a Hollywood take on the controversies that have hit universities like Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley after they accepted giant research contracts from energy
    conglomerates.

    As fans of the show may already know, the episode featured a
    story line about one of the firm’s top partners, played by the
    venerable Candice Bergen, being sued by Stanford for reneging on a
    $3-million pledge. As the TV show laid it out, Ms. Bergen’s character
    withdrew the gift to protest Stanford’s acceptance of $100-million from
    ExxonMobil.

    Curiously,
    ExxonMobil appears to have stopped running those ads at about the same
    time as news of Mr. Bing’s withdrawn gift became public.

    Groups that have raised questions about Stanford’s ties to
    Exxon, as well as Berkeley’s $500 million partnership with BP, were
    quick to make hay out of the television show. In a press release this
    week, the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights declared the
    fictional television show a timely and relevant warning about
    universities’ ties to industries. Oil companies have an image problem,
    says John M. Simpson, a consumer advocate with the organization. "We
    simply cannot allow them to fix it by turning our respected colleges
    and universities into ‘Big Oil U.’"

    Visitors to the foundation’s Web site can also view a video
    clip from the show, in which another lawyer character, played by James
    Spader, gives an impassioned courtroom speech about how universities,
    including Berkeley and Princeton University (which has a smaller
    research program financed by BP), are being co-opted by what he calls
    "Big Pollution."

    And to think, some of here like to turn on network television to get away from our day jobs.

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