Bad news from Auntie

This is quite surprising (via The Agonist):

The BBC will today apologise to an estimated 74 million people around the world for a news fixing scandal, exposed by The Independent, in which it broadcast documentaries made by a London TV company that was earning millions of pounds from PR clients which it featured in its programming…

The Independent exposed last year in an investigation into the global television news industry how the BBC paid nominal fees of as little as £1 for programmes made by FBC Media (UK), whose PR client list included foreign governments and multinational companies. The company made eight pieces for the BBC about Malaysia while failing to declare it was paid £17m by the Malaysian government for “global strategic communications”. The programmes included positive coverage of Malaysia’s controversial palm oil industry.

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….

This sort of arrangement seems quite popular in the media world:

The Independent has revealed FBC, which was run by the former Financial Times journalist Alan Friedman and the CNN presenter John Defterios, was also making editorial programmes that featured FBC clients for the global business broadcaster CNBC, which suspended its FBC-made show World Business. Other 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.

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.

It would be interesting to know how widespread this sort of practice is in general.

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