Monday, February 13, 2012

Not reported in our media

BBC global apology for using news paid by Malaysia

Sat 2012-Feb-11 @ MYT 17:34:37 pm

» Sarawak Report
 exposed FBC as Malaysia’s PR fixers
from The Independent BBC will apologise today to its worldwide television news audience for a news fixing scandal, exposed by The Independent, in which it broadcast documentaries made by London TV company FBC Media (UK) that was earning millions of pounds from PR clients which it featured in its programming.
The apology over BBC World News to be seen “from Kuala Lumpur to Khartoum and Bangkok to Buenos Aires” will be telecast at four different times in order to reach audiences in different time zones, the Independent reported. The BBC will apologise for breaking “rules aimed at protecting our editorial integrity”.
The BBC said in November there were 15 breaches of editorial guidelines, 8 of them in programmes about Malaysia.
Last year the Independent exposed FBC Media (UK) who supplied programmes to the BBC for nominal fees of as little as £1 . Eight programmes about Malaysia were made for the BBC while FBC failed to declare it was paid £17m by the Malaysian government for “global strategic communications”. The programmes included positive coverage of Malaysia’s palm oil industry, which has been held accused of deforestation and loss of native lands.
John Defterios reporting for CNN on Kazakhstan in 2010. The country was a client of FBC Media
The Independent revealed that FBC, run by the former Financial Times journalist Alan Friedman and CNN presenter John Defterios, made editorial programmes for business broadcaster CNBC featuring FBC clients on the FBC-made show World Business. FBC clients included the governments of Greece and Kazakhstan and companies like Microsoft.
FBC also tried to suggest in its promotional literature it had “cultivated” key opinion formers, such as economist Jeffrey Sachs, as “ambassadors”. Sachs totally rejected the claim, the Independent said.
The BBC also used FBC to make a documentary about the spring uprising in Egypt without knowing the firm was paid to do PR work for the regime of former dictator Hosni Mubarak.
The BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee carried out an investigation into BBC World News which reported
The trust also identified other breaches of rules on sponsorship in programmes shown by BBC World News, which is a commercial entity and carries advertising. In its apology, the BBC will say: “A small number of programmes broadcast on BBC World News between February 2009 and July 2011 broke BBC rules aimed at protecting our editorial integrity. These rules ensure that programmes are free, and are seen to be free, from commercial or other outside pressures.”
Making a direct reference to the FBC documentaries, it will say: “In the case of eight other programmes, all of which featured Malaysia, we found that the production company which made the programmes appeared to have a financial relationship with the Malaysian government. This meant there was a potential conflict of interest, though the BBC was not aware of it when the programmes were broadcast.”
It concludes: “Editorial integrity is the highest priority for BBC World News, which is why we apologise for these breaches of our normal standards.”
When The Independent published its investigations into FBC the firm said it had kept strict divisions between its editorial and PR operations. FBC closed its London offices and went into administration in October. Broadcasting regulator Ofcom is investigating FBC.

Bad practice: The stories

Since 2009 FBC has made at least four BBC documentaries dealing with Malaysia and controversial issues such as the country’s palm-oil industry and its treatment of rainforests and indigenous people. The company has received millions of pounds in payments from the government of Malaysia for a “global strategic communications campaign”.
Hosni Mubarak
As Egypt was in the throes of a revolution, the BBC commissioned FBC to make a documentary on the country. But the firm had a commercial relationship to promote Egypt as “liberal and open”. The programme, Third Eye: Egypt, warned of the threat of takeover by Islamic fundamentalists.
Mark Thompson
The BBC director general has ordered an end to the practice of acquiring news programmes for “low or nominal cost” after the BBC admitted 15 breaches of its editorial guidelines and buying documentaries for “nominal” fees as little as £1 from a company that was working to promote foreign governments.

Another blow to Malaysia from BBC apology

Sat 2012-Feb-11 @ MYT 19:30:06 pm

Malaysia’s image is taking a beating from the 
BBC’s global apology says A Kadir Jasin, former chief editor of New Straits Times Press. He questioned whether the government had been wise to spend taxpayers’ money on expensive foreign consultants. The BBC apologised for running eight programmes produced by UK-based publicity consultants FBC Media which was working for the Malaysian government.
Besides FBC Media, the Malaysian government has previously admitted using APCO International, one of the largest lobbying firms in the US, with a contract worth RM27mil for image-building work.

Kadir questions need for expensive outsiders

That the BBC had been duped into airing the programmes, is its problem. The British broadcaster is paying the price for its oversight.
What should concern us is that taxpayers’ money paid to FBC Media. Its unprofessional conduct has caused our country shame. Instead of benefiting from FBC costly handiwork, Malaysia’s image has instead been further damaged.
The question is: How could our government (and its agencies) have made such a mistake when we know that teams upon teams of “high-powered” media professionals have been employed by Putrajaya since Prime Minister Mohd Najib took over in 2009?
Did they not know who or what FBC Media is? To have their “global strategic communications” contractor caught red-handed and with its pants down, does not speak well of the government’s media teams and personalities.
Perhaps this is the problem and outcome of being too dependent on outside advisers and consultants, and not being hands-on enough.
» Malaysia’s Image Tarnished In BBC’s Apology
In November, law minister Nazri Aziz defended FBC Media. He told Parliament the government paid the company 20 million euros (about RM90mil) from 2007 to 2000 to repair the country’s image and said western leaders had since become more receptive of Najib Tun Razak. Nazri accused opposition politicians of disparaging the country. “If they do not bad mouth the government by feeding lies to the international media, we do not have to pay any money to repair our image,” he said.
Nazri’s explanation ignored the fact that Najib’s image problem was because he was then linked to the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder, and allegations made that he had an affair with the woman, a translater from Mongolia who helped a Najib associate, Razak Baginda, in negotiations for Malaysia’s purchase of two French-made submarines. Razak’s firm was reported to have been paid RM250mil in commissions.
Nazri also said FBC Media did not commit any criminal offence, even though they were being investigated for ethics violations by broadcasters. Nazri: Govt paid FBC Media to repair image abroad (Star Online) West warmer towards Najib (Free Malaysia Today)
The Sarawak Report web site, which has carried a detailed series of reports on FBC Media’s involvement in Malaysia’s image-building, has said the company also worked to improve the image of Sarawak chief minister Taib Mahmud, and had engaged a Conservative politician as a spokesman for Sime Darby, which it described as an FBC client.

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First Lady of Ministry of Communication and Multimedia, Malaysia.

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