Taib is paying a crooked, British-based PR company $5 million (RM15 million) a year to conduct an illegal global media campaign against Sarawak Report.
We expose FBC Media, a UK-based TV production company, which doubles as a “strategic communications” firm, for conducting an illicit media scam over the past decade. The outfit is secretly selling slots across a number of supposedly impartial TV news programmes to promote its international PR clients, who include Najib Razak and Taib Mahmud.
The practice, which is designed to deceive hundreds of millions of TV viewers, has netted the company tens of millions of dollars, providing characters like Taib Mahmud with positive publicity on prime international TV news shows. It is all paid for, of course, by the Malaysian taxpayers, whom they are seeking to dupe and impress.
Our evidence further shows that FBC Media are also linked to the vicious online blogging campaigns in the US which have defamed both Anwar Ibrahim and Sarawak Report over the past months [see Sarawak Reports Dirty Tricks Coverage].
Top global TV stations in trouble
Our in-depth investigation into the scandal implicates some of the world’s most prestigious broadcasting networks, including CNBC, CNN and even BBC World, which is supported by the British government.
All these stations have carried programmes made by FBC Media, containing items promoting their multi-million dollar PR clients.
Allowing characters like Taib Mahmud to buy positive coverage on editorial news shows is rightly banned under broadcasting laws and it is those broadcasting companies themselves that hold ultimate legal responsibility for all the content they put out.
As our story hits the headlines CNCB, CNN, BBC World and other carriers of FBC-made programmes will face some serious investigations by their licencing authorities, both in the UK (Ofcom) and in the United States (the Federal Communications Commission).
A recommendation from Najib!
Sarawak Report has learnt that it was the Malaysian PM Najib Razak who recommended FBC media’s multi-million dollar PR services to Taib Mahmud. Our research has revealed that Najib, former PM Badawi and a number of Malaysian companies,
including the palm oil giant Sime Darby are also clients of FBC, pouring tens of millions of ringgit of taxpayers’ money into corrupt PR campaigns in recent years.
It was the General Secretary of the PKR opposition party, Saifuddin Nasutian, who revealed last year that Malaysian budget records show that between 2008-2009 alone a massive RM57.68 million was paid by the Prime Minister’s office to FBC Media to conduct a “Global Strategic Communications Campaign” for the Malaysian government. RM29,337,650 was paid out in 2008 and RM28,350,000 in 2009.
Saifuddin Nasutian raised the matter in the Malaysian Parliament, referring to the engagement of FBC Media UK several times and questioning the services that the company was providing in its Global Strategic Communications Campaign.
No denial has been made by FBC Media or the Malaysian government about the contract. Neither have they attempted to deny the sums that are officially registered in the government budget.
A further RM42 million was spent in 2010 on “Public Affairs and Government Services and Strategic Communication, Public Relations and Press Outreach”, according to the latest supplementary budget.
APCO Connection proves FBC contract with Malaysia
FBC Media’s ties with the controversial American PR company APCO are also clearly proven. Official disclosure documents to the United States Government show that FBC Media has paid a total of $70,000 to APCO over the past two years to conduct a lobbying campaign in the United States on behalf of the Malaysian Government.
Such lobbying is clearly just part of the services commissioned from FBC Media by BN’s political leaders. The production/PR company cannot deny that the Malaysian government is also frequently featured across all its programmes.
According to our inside information, Najib suggested that Taib engage FBC Media for a similar campaign after the Chief Minister was seen to have suffered a publicity crisis, following revelations in Sarawak Report about his extensive corruption.
Sources close to the Chief Minister have told us that the flamboyant American Chairman of FBC Media, Alan Friedman, personally visited Taib in Kuching at least twice at the start of the year and a contract was agreed that promised to transform the international image of the hitherto secretive Sarawak dictator.
Details of the crooked contract with Taib Mahmud
Sarawak Report now has detailed information about the exact proposals within Taib’s FBC contract and the costs involved. Following meetings in January, Friedman promised Taib assistance in “countering negative and false perceptions that have been spread at home and abroad” and assured the Chief Minister that he has the “tools and international experience” to do just that.
It would appear that by “tools” the PR man was referring to his company’s existing contracts to produce editorial news programmes such as CNBC’s World Business, which is viewed by a purported 300 million people across the world every week, as well as a number of other productions for BBC World and also outlet opportunities on CNN.
Taib would have been well aware that such tools are illegal. Click here for FBC’s original website, which was pulled down straight after questions were asked of FBC last weekk by a UK newspaper. Or
[CLICK HEREfor a downloadable version.
The crooked contract advocated that the campaign should last for 3 years in total, but for the first year alone FBC´s services have amounted to an enormous USD$ 5 million (RM 15 million), plus expenses. For this Friedman has offered a campaign across prime TV, online and print news media platforms designed to convince international viewers that the Chief Minister’s government of Sarawak has been beneficial in bringing development to the people of Sarawak.
The FBC Media Chief also promised that the rampant logging and palm oil programmes, which the Chief Minister has carried out largely for his own enrichment, would be portrayed as ‘sustainable development’ in this artificial news coverage!
Within this contract Friedman is charging $270,000 (RM 800,000) for each set-piece TV documentary about Taib or Sarawak on one of his ‘prime TV shows’. He is also charging to show the Chief Minister off at various world conferences at a cost of $193,000 (RM 570,000) per conference. Strangely, he also charges $110,000 a month (RM 320,000 a month) to provide “Airline inflight sponsorship”, whereas it is in fact airlines that are supposed to buy programmes, not get paid for them!
For a further charge of $55,000 a month (RM 162,000 a month) the FBC Media contract also offers a separate campaign using online sites and “special blogging” in order to “provide a blanket of positive coverage” about Taib and Sarawak in the Western media.
The contract explains that this manufactured “international recognition” would then be “bounced back” into the local press for people in Sarawak to see!
So, could the American-based attacks on Sarawak Report to be found in Josh Trevino’s ‘New Ledger’ blog, which are then be found reproduced in the look-alike site Sarawak Report(s), started in March 2011, be linked to this $55,000 a month contract? The evidence is there for all to see!
By this method Taib and Friedman have attempted to take the taxpayers of Sarawak’s own money to pull the wool over their eyes and to gull foreign news viewers into a false impression of his management of Sarawak!
Proof is in the output - “Deforestation in Sarawak“ on CNBC’s World Business
Proof of the commitments in the Taib contract can be seen in the TV shows that have been broadcast about Sarawak in subsequent months – on programmes made for supposedly reputable broadcasters by FBC Media.
On March 25th, just a few weeks after the contract was signed, a major item appeared on CNBC’s World Business programme called “Deforestation in Sarawak”! By any standards it is an outrageous and biased apology for Taib Mahmud’s wrecking of the Borneo Jungle and a major exercise in Greenwash.
Taib himself is featured in a coached interview claiming that over 80% of the Borneo jungle is pristine and untouched! This contradicts the general consensus that only about 5% of the more inaccessible jungle areas remain untouched. It also Taib Mahmud’s own remarks to the Sarawak Tribune 3rd April 2001, when he said it was vital for the Sarawak timber industry to adapt to a new situation as 90 percent of the trees had been cut!
As Sarawakians know, Taib’s crony timber companies are still doing their best to force the indigenous people out of the areas that are left.
The FBC reporter on “Deforestation in Sarawak” nevertheless further alleges that many tourists flock to Sarawak to see the wonderful protected jungle and claims that the only oil palm plantation that has taken place has been on land already cleared for rubber plantations or other crops!
Anyone who knows anything about Sarawak knows that such claims are lies and that a million hectares have been cleared for oil palm, a figure due to double over the next ten years. Taib himself has achieved vast wealth out of destroying the precious hardwood jungles of the state.
To add insult to injury “Deforestation in Sarawak” also features a ‘happy Penan tribesman’ who now enjoys a ‘modern life’ in a city job. The programme makes no mention however of the fact that thousands of his fellow tribes-people have been desperately manning blockades against the loggers since the 1980s till this day, as they attempt to keep Taib’s men from destroying their lands.
The film also makes no mention of the fact that hundreds of thousands more indigenous people have losts their lands and livelihoods to Taib’s million hectares of oil palm plantations, logging and dams, for which they have received nothing in return. Nor that most of the interior population continue to be denied their voting rights and 60,000 still do not even have their basic identity cards.
FBC´s film again fails to point out that Taib´s so-called ‘development’ programmes of the past 30 years have benefitted few beyond the members of the Chief Minister’s fabulously wealthy family and business associates. Although Sarawak is Malaysia’s richest state in terms of natural resources, it is home to many of the poorest people.
Instead, “Deforestation in Sarawak” features a number of Taib’s own employees, who pose as ‘objective third party endorsers’ of the Chief Minister’s policies. One of these is his sturdy henchman,Len Taliff Saleh, who spoke as the supposedly neutral Head of Forests in Sarawak, even though he had already at that stage taken up his new role as a BN candidate in the upcoming state election.
Another ‘objective’ endorser of Taib in the movie was the Australain Brian Clarke, who is employed by Taib directly as a park ranger on his family playground, the Mulu Resort. Mulu is an area that was forcibly snatched from the Berewan tribe and is now owned by Taib and his family members.
UNESCO are currently officially reviewing the region’s status as a World Heritage Site, because of Taib’s appalling environmental record in the region, yet none of this was mentioned by FBC.
Indeed, “Deforestation in Sarawak” is such a blatant PR vehicle for Taib Mahmud that even FBC Media were clearly fearful of it falling into the wrong hands! Immediately after broadcasting the show across its global outlets the production company took extraordinary steps to attempt to have it removed from the normal You Tube sites, where it generally advertises its World Business programme output. Other films featuring various other clients have been allowed to remain online, but “Deforestation in Sarawak” has been removed from just about every available portal!
Sarawak Report is happy to offer readers an opportunity to view it however by clicking on “Deforestation in Sarawak“.
More dodgy movies on BBC World
The same FBC Media production crew that produced “Deforestation in Sarawak” also made a film for the series ‘One Square Mile‘ on BBC World. This film once again provides a sympathetic portrayal of Taib’s management of Sarawak.
It features the problems of local tribes-people, but gives the impression that the government has been working to help them. There is no mention of the alienation of their lands, logging or palm oil, which have left the people poor, while enriching Taib Mahmud.
If FBC Media had not received money from Taib, the item might be considered merely a case of weak reporting. But the existence of the $5 million contract places matters in a very different light!
In the same recent period there has been a whole spate of FBC produced programmes for the BBC that have attempted to subtly promote oil palm as an agent of “development” and to criticise people who raise issues about deforestation, mono-culture and corruption as ignorant, selfish outsiders.
One example is the series “Develop or Die”, presented by the BBC´s Zeinab Badawi, which provides a sympathetic platform for the Malaysian Palm Oil industry and features interviews with palm oil producer. Sime Darby.
The series suggests that without the continuing mass expansion of the controversial crop people in countries like Malaysia would not develop and would therefore die. This may be one viewpoint, but FBC Media blatantly fail declare their own financial interest in the matter. Sarawak Report has received inside information that Sime Darby is one of FBC Media’s Malaysian business clients and the company’s boss, former Deputy PM Musa Hitam, frequently appears in its productions.
With a another series of Develop or Die currently in production, Sarawak Report challenges BBC World to investigate potential secret sponsorship behind their programmes promoting palm oil.
Another recent case in point is the recent July episode of the monthly ‘Third Eye’ programme for BBC World, also made by FBC Media. It focusses again on palm oil, arguing the case for Malaysia’s increasingly controversial plantation schemes, much of which is destroying Sarawak’s remaining jungle.
Once again the programme implies that millions could die unless palm oil plantations are allowed to expand and raises arguments against environmentalists, who have concerns about deforestation. Once again there is a failure by FBC to declare its links to the Malaysian government and its pro-palm oil policies.
Also, this same month of July, another pro-Najib/BN show appeared on BBC World, with another edition of One Square Mile, again produced by FBC Media. Yet again it contains the same positive messaging about Malaysia’s government policies.
Questions to answer for CNN
CNN is another of the “placement options” that FBC have been promoting for their strategic communications clients on their website, which was pulled down earlier today [Sarawak Report is able to link readers to a live copy of the original site - CLICK HERE].
Former CNN business presenter, John Defterios, who is a shareholder of the parent company FBC Group Limited and the company´s President, also presents the CNN current affairs and business programme Marketplace Middle East.
So how coincidental was it that earlier this month John Defterios conducted an exclusive interview with FBC Media client Najib Razak during his official visit to London? The interview was broadcast on CNN and received widespread publicity back in Malaysia.
We invite CNN to examine whether this too formed part of the Prime Minister’s strategic communications contract with FBC, paid for by the Malaysian taxpayer?
Misleadingly, it was the FBC-linked blogger, Josh Trevino, who accused the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of paying for publicity on CNN earlier this year! The American right-winger made the accusation in the blog New Ledger, which is clearly paid for as part of the communications package commissioned by BN leaders.
This false accusation (denied by CNN) was then picked up and distributed among BN leaning blogs in Malaysia, on the basis that it was news from the US. We challange New Ledger and those BN leaning blogs to now publicise how it is in fact Najib Razak who has been buying his slots on global TV shows.
Revenue squeeze that may have opened the door to the corruption of global TV
BBC World is the commercial arm of the BBC. Like all global TV stations it has been subject to shrinking advertising revenues in a competititve market and it has been looking for ‘innovative’ ways of paying for programming. The popular concept at the moment is so-called ‘branded’ programmes, in which FBC claims to specialise.
In a recent interview BBC World’s Head of Programmes, Paul Gibbs, acknowledged that the BBC has been seeking to use its world reputation as a trusted broadcaster to encourage third parties to invest in programmes:
“It’s the platform itself,” explained Gibbs. “Quite often our interest in any project can be enough to allow documentary makers to raise funding. The promise of a slot on BBC World News can be enough in order to realise the project, and because of the BBC traditional editorial values, our input on any project is incredibly valued.” [Encore Magazine]
The rules state however, that such forms of sponsorship should never extend to so-called editorial content, where viewers are led to believe that the journalism is un-influenced by any form of bias. With FBC Media’s documentaries that line seems to have been crossed and those “traditional editorial values” compromised.
Likewise,CNBC has also expressed its interest in expanding branded programming. In fact their new Head of Branded Programming came straight from FBC Media, where she had been their Business Development Director.
CNBC is owned by America’s NBC and is a global broadcaster. Its Europe branch comes under Britain’s Ofcom regulator, which specifically prohibits any sponsorship or branding of ‘editorial’ programmes such as FBC’s World Business programme. Sarawak Report is notifying Ofcom of these apparent breaches.
We understand that FBC Media have numerous clients both in Malaysia and around the world. These clients are in many cases of the sort who would normally find it hard to get sympathetic coverage from objective global media shows. Yet, through FBC they have been able to pay for positive output, albeit at a very high price. .
Certainly FBC’s World Business programme on CNBC has revisited Malaysia considerably more often over the past twelve months than would be expected given the number of its shows and Malaysia’s weight in the world economy. We have ascertained at least 11 occasions in just the past 18 months alone where PM Najib Razak has been featured positively in films on the show.
By contrast there has been zero political coverage of the neighbouring Philippines over that period, just 2 interviews with the Thai Prime Minister and 4 with the leader of Indonesia. Meanwhile, there have been a number of further films also been made to boost some of the key projects of Najib Razak in Malaysia.
A country that does feature frequently on World Business however, is far-flung Khazkhstan, which according to our information is another PR client of FBC Media.
We challenge FBC Media’s Alan Friedman to deny that there is no connection between his company’s RM 57.69 million contract with the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s office to provide a “strategic global communications campaign” and this output on the programme he makes for CNBC.
It goes on. In March of this year BBC’s World Debate, hosted by Zeinab Badawi again featured Najib Razak in the context of the Global Movement for Justice Peace and Dignity, which promotes Malaysia as a moderate Muslim country.
Once again this show was produced for the BBC by FBC Media. At the same time FBC’s World Business also ran an item on the conference for CNBC.
Some of the many FBC Media programmes featuring Najib Razak on CNBC can be accessed by Clicking Here.
Fitting in the ´First Family´ too!
It is well known that Najib’s wife Rosmah rarely misses out on her own opportunities. Thus, FBC Media featured two whole films across two weeks dedicated to her ‘First Lady Summit’ last October.It included a lengthy set piece interview with her about her ‘work in education’. Rosmah is described as Malaysia’s First Lady throughout the programme – in a clear slight towards the wife of the present King of Malaysia.
FBC Media, of course, also covered the controversial Kazakhstan gathering of the World Islamic Economic Forum this June. There has been much comment in Malaysia that the marriage of Najib and Rosmah’s daughter Nooryana Najwa and the son of the President of Kazakhstan (who is also believed to be a client of FBC Media) took place at the same time as the conference.
Allegedly, Najib and Rosmah spent considerable sums on transporting several Malaysian guests to Astana and entertaining them with their hosts as part of the conference, thereby saving a fortune on their wedding expenses at the expense of the Malaysian taxpayer!
Alan Friedman himself was even a speaker at the conference, which was naturally featured on CNBC’s World Business.
The programme which was aired this July can be viewed on Youtube.
A ‘unique PR company’ that should have been caught out – no excuse for broadcasters
Any of the broadcasters commissioning FBC should have been well-placed to see what just what the company is up to. The company makes no secret of merging two highly incompatible roles within its business model, on the one hand acting as a producer of ‘editorial’ news and business programmes, while at the same time promoting its services as a provider of ‘strategic communications’ services for political and business figures.
This blatant conflict of interest is also made clear on its public website (brought down today, but available HERE). The temptation to combine FBC’s two key income streams by using the editorial news platforms, commissioned by such major companies as CNBC, CNN and the BBC to promote FBC’s top dollar clients is plain to see.
It therefore calls to question the judgement of a number of high-ranking TV executives. The apparent failure by the broadcasters involved to recognise what has been going on is surely inexcusable.
Also available on the internet is a copy of FBC Media’s own power point presentation for potential new PR clients. This makes it perfectly clear how the company has been illegally abusing its position. The company crows that it can provide a “unique service”, unlike any competitors, that “guarantees editorial coverage on television in 100 countries”.
Making clear that FBC “controls blue-chip television editorial time-slots” the company also “guarantees controlled messaging” for its clients and further guarantees that those messages are supported and “endorsed by prestige third party ambassadors”, in order to give the client an added credibiility in the eyes of the audience.
These services are illegal and such guarantees of editorial news coverage are not available to normal, honest Public Relations firms. That is of course why multi-millionaire clients like Taib Mahmud and Najib Razak have been prepared to pay millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to FBC! In the process they have corrupted the integrity of many of the World’s top TV broadcasters.
Other media platforms?
On its websiteFBC Media boasts to clients that its many “platforms” also includes Channel News Asia. So how about the series Global Investor that has been broadcast once a year for the past three years on either Channel News Asia or CNBC Asia? Each year it has just featured Malaysia with positive coverage of Najib, Badawi and their pet projects.
FBC Media also boasts links with the International Herald Tribune and Business Week. Malaysia’s Iskandar project was strangely present and promoted at this year’s ‘European Leadership Forum’, run by Business Week with FBC’s John Defterios as Chairman. Meanwhile, who should FBC’s Alan Friedman choose to interview for the International Herald Tribune, but Najib Razak?
Licencing organisations must now question how so many top broadcasters came to turn a blind eye to FBC’s activities. Without doubt much of the answer lies in the decline of advertising revenue and the increasing pressure to cut budgets.
FBC operates by seducing commissioning editors into ccepting ridiculously cheap shows to help manage their budgets. Having got the slot, FBC secretly finds finance from corrupt sponsorship.
However, in the case of CNBC we have uncovered an even more damning arrangement. It appears from FBC’s own publicly listed accounts, registered at Companies House in the UK, that the top US broadcaster has been willing to allow FBC to provide the programme entirely for free, on the basis that it will cover its costs and make its profits from sponsorship alone!
Such arrangements are surely at the heart of corruption of the global TV news industry and the deception of millions of viewers of allegedly impartial news coverage across the globe.
The FBC in FBC Media stands for ‘Fact Based Communications’. We question whether facts are as important to this company as the communications contracts they have secured.