BBC Suspends All FBC Media Programmes Pending Enquiry

BBC Suspends All FBC Media Programmes Pending Enquiry

4 Aug 2011

Trusted brand was running FBC shows while the company was being sponsored by Malaysian politicians.

Sarawak Report can confirm that the BBC appointed a team a week ago to examine FBC Media’s activities. 

They had been alerted to the PR/Production company’s activities and were able to look at its website and other publicity material before FBC withdrew it after being approached by journalists on Thursday.

Britain’s top broadcaster has told reporters that it is treating the matter with extreme seriousness and will be launching a full investigation into the company which boasted of its programmes as ‘broadcast platforms’, where it could positively feature its PR clients, including Najib Razak and Taib Mahmud.  

In a statement the BBC acknowledged that it had not been aware of a number of the facts brought to light in our Sarawak Report expose on the dodgy UK PR company that has received tens of millions of ringgit from the Malaysian taxpayer to conduct “Global Strategic Communications Campaigns” for some of BN’s leading figures:

BBC Statement
“The BBC is committed to the highest editorial standards and takes these issues seriously.
The BBC was not aware of some of the information provided and we will examine the claims made as a matter of urgency.
All independent TV companies who produce programmes for BBC World News have to sign strict agreements to ensure programmes meet the BBC’s editorial guidelines, including avoiding any conflict of interest.
We will be contacting FBC to seek further information.
As a precautionary step, we will not broadcast programmes made by FBC whilst we look into these claims”

We reported yesterday that another major broadcaster CNBC has also suspended its flagship show World Business, which was produced by FBC Media, indefinitely while they carry out their own enquiries.

Broadcaster responsibility

Both broadcasters are aware that if any breech of licencing regulations has been carried out by FBC programmes, then it will be ultimately themselves who will be held legally responsible and accountable to the authorities.  In the UK it is the Ofcom regulator who should be looking into the matter both for CNBC and BBC World, which as a commercial entity also comes under Ofcom’s licencing remit.

CNN is another of the many networks who have had links with FBC Media.  FBC Media’s President, who is also a registered Director and Shareholder of the company, John Defterios, has acted as an anchorman for many of it Business Programmes.

Sarawak Report has enquired whether CNN has any concerns whether such a clear conflict of interests could have affected their programming.  Publicity material for FBC’s PR clients offered CNN as one of the ‘broadcast platforms’ available for achieving positive ‘editorial news coverage’. 

How could FBC "guarantee" such outlets to their multi-million dollar clients like Taib Mahmud, who has been paying £5million a year?

Nevertheless, CNN has so far indicated that it is content that there has been no breech of ethics on their programming.  In reply they have told Sarawak Report:

“John Defterios became a full time employee with CNN in March, at which time he severed his affiliation with FBC.
There has never been a contract between CNN and FBC to carry  any editorial content on CNN, about Malaysia  or otherwise.
The only FBC content CNN has carried is FBC advertorial, clearly labelled, in commercial time”.

Sarawak Report has now challenged CNN to explain why it has not seen fit to launch an enquiry to make sure?   We also wonder why John Defterios was described as a member of the Executive Team of FBC on the company’s own website as late as July 25th, shortly before it was pulled down?

The website stated that Defterios “… serves as President of the group. In this capacity, he oversees FBC’s factual programming and media services work”.  Defterios also continues to registered as a Director and substantial Shareholder of FBC Group (the parent company) in the UK’s Companies House.

Still listed as a member of the Executive Team on July 25th

Both CNN and CNBC are broadcasters with US parent companies.  Although CNBC’s World Business show is not aired on their own American network, a number of broadcast and cable companies do carry the show, including several Public Broadcasting Stations. 

All broadcasters in the US will be aware of the fundamental ethical and legal guidelines that govern the principle of impartial broadcasting when it comes to news and documentary programmes.  The Federal body in charge of controlling broadcasting in the United States is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  Its rules on declaring sponsorship are clear and rigorous and it would appear that broadcasters of FBC programmes have broken them.

Broadcasters must make reasonable efforts to obtain information from their employees the information necessary to alert the audience to any payments or sponsorship of programming...

Sarawak Report asks CNN to assure us that it took such steps in the case of John Defterios during the years that he acted as President of FBC Media, while anchoring their business programmes and interviewing such personalities as Najib Razak of Malaysia, a client of FBC Media to the tune of several million dollars a year.

The British-based Ofcom rules, which in fact controls the Europe output of all these companies has even clearer and stricter rules about payment for news slots, as can be seen from its rules below.

Banned by Ofcom. Straight and simple.

As investigations continue, at the BBC and CNBC at least, over the coming weeks they will focus on the extent to which payments of millions of dollars by clients like PM Najib Razak, former PM Abdullah Badawi, Sime Darby Chief and former Deputy PM Musa Hitam and of course Taib Mahmud, may have affected the content of FBC made programmes broadcast on the world’s top TV news stations around the world.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Report will continue to reveal more on the dirty tricks campaigns carried out by Western companies hired by BN’s politicians to bad mouth political opponents and promote themselves – all at taxpayers’ expense.

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