Sarawak Report has received a copy of the actual letter and contract sent by FBC Media Chairman, Alan Friedman, to Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, outlining their illegal PR campaign.
The total cost for FBC’s ‘Global Strategic Communications Proposal’ came to $5 million in the first year alone in a campaign designed to last at least 3 years.
Sources close to BN have told us that the project was first outlined verbally in meetings between Alan Friedman and the Chief Minister, after the FBC Media Chairman was invited to Kuching at the start of the year.
In a recent statement issued through lawyers to the UK’s Independent Newspaper FBC Media have attempted to defend their PR activities, claiming that the ‘commercial division’ and ‘production division’ of the company “are and always have been quite separate and distinct”.
However, we can show that Alan Friedman, who was clearly masterminding the multi-million dollar PR deal, also doubled up as the Executive Editor of the company’s flagship World Business programme, produced weekly for CNBC.
Shortly after the Taib contract was delivered, a major item about Sarawak duly appeared on World Business, raising questions about how separate those divisions are actually kept!
Indeed, the World Business item, called Deforestation in Sarawak, can only be described as falling far beneath the normal standards of objective reporting.
The show, which provided extensive justification for the Chief Minister, featured a line up of employees and political allies as if they were objective commentators, and even allowed him to suggest that 80% of Sarawak’s jungle has remained untouched!
To add insult to injury, a ‘happy Penan tribesman’ was also featured talking about how he had benefitted from ‘progress’. However, there was no mention of the years of desperate blockades which have been mounted by his own people against Taib’s corrupt logging, or of the protests by numerous other native groups, who have been shoved out of their lands to make way for logging, dams and oil palm with no compensation or opportunity to profit.
In February, BBC World’s One Square Mile, also produced by FBC Media, had again given the impression that Taib was doing the best possible for the indigenous forest people. Once again the Executive Producer of the Programme was none other than Alan Friedman!
The reporter, Rian Maelzer, avoided discussing the problems caused by land grabs and corruption, claiming instead that:
“For the past 40 years, the Malaysian government has practised an affirmative-action policy aimed at raising the living standards of indigenous groups”
Thus, despite the international condemnation of Taib Mahmud by environmentalists and human rights organisations, viewers of CNBC and BBC would have been left with the impression that Taib Mahmud was a benign governor, beloved of his people.
The BBC has now gone public with a statement acknowledging that it had been misled by Alan Friedman and FBC Media.
The broadcaster has confirmed that it has suspended all programming commissioned by the company pending a thorough enquiry. Yesterday in news items and on its website the corporation announced:
“FBC has admitted to the BBC that it has worked for the Malaysian government. That information was not disclosed to the BBC as we believe it should have been when the BBC contracted programming from FBC.
“Given this, the BBC has decided to transmit no more programming from FBC while it reviews its relationship with the company.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-14556988
CNBC has likewise suspended FBC Media programmes in the wake of our reports. We have, of course, further revealed that FBC has publicly stated that its arrangement with the global US-based broadcaster was that it would provide the programmes for free and raise its money from ‘sponsorship’. If this claim by FBC Media in its own Annual Report is true, then CNBC has serious questions to answer to regulators, such as Ofcom in the UK and the Federal Communications Commission in the USA.
Given these developments and the fact that the Malaysian Insider news blog has now reported that the Malaysian government has severed its contract with FBC Media, Sarawak Report would like to ask on behalf of Sarawak’s taxpayers whether Taib Mahmud has also severed his own contract (see below)?
What we can do for $5 million – Friedman’s grovelling letter to Taib Mahmud on January 20th
The text of the letter in full says:
“Dear Pehin Sri,
It was a great honour and a personal pleasure to meet you in Kuching last week.
I am grateful for the generous amount of time you devoted to our meeting and for the talk we had about how we can assist you promote your important achievements in bringing Sarawak steadily toward your goal of fully developed nation status, and to assist in countering false and negative perceptions that have been spread at home and abroad.
In the attached Proposal we have tried to capture the key elements of our discussion, and to provide our advice on the strategy and deliverables we believe can achieve a truly impactful result, both in the first 90-day phase, and during the rest of the year.
We hope that 2011 can be the start of a long-term relationship, and generally this kind of work is reinforced and maintained over a three-year period, but we do wish to prove ourselves first, show our strength, our loyalty and our passion. We wish to be tested first, and so what you will find would cover only the period of 12 months beginning February 1, 2011.
There is much to do, but we sincerely believe we have the tools and international experience to make a genuine and visible difference for you and for the people of Sarawak.
You will find an Executive Summary in the first two pages of the document that describes the main elements of the campaign, which would aim to illustrate to the most prestige international television, online, and print media platforms in a convincing and editorially credible manner your own leadership, the way you have transformed Sarawak, the benefits for the people of Sarawak, and your commitment to further growth, progress and sustainable development.
In the first 90 days we will use television reporting and an interview with yourself, plus press tours and online sites and special blogging that should provide a blanket of positive messaging about you and Sarawak to the Western media.
We would during the same period work between February and April to bounce back into the local press in Sarawak this international recognition, this bringing positive results as well for the people of Sarawak to see.
In the second phase of our work, from May through the start of next year, we would work both on the positive messages and to counter negative perceptions and falsehoods that have been spread unfairly about environmental matters ranging from the Bakun Dam to timber, mining and palm oil. We would also counter false allegations about corruption.
In the same period we would also work to develop greater international investor interest in the economy of Sarawak, with particular focus on the Gulf emirates and Middle East, China and India.
Sir, I sincerely hope you will be pleased with our International Strategic Communications Proposal, and I promise you my own personal commitment to lead this effort and to be at your service. With your blessing, we can make a difference, and begin the work on February 1st.
Thank you very much for your consideration, and I hope to see you in February to begin our work and bring my top team to Kuching to interview you and to begin broadcasting to elite audiences in 100 countries the real story, the positive story, about your leadership of Sarawak.
Alan Friedman, Chairman & Founder, FBC Media”
The Global Strategic Communications Proposal:
Sarawak Report can also now exclusively reveal a copy of the full proposal with costs that accompanied Friedman’s letter to Taib Mahmud. Entitled “International Strategic Communications Campaign by FBC for Sarawak, February 2011-January 2012″, it provides a full budget breakdown for its services, many of which are highly questionable.
The document is priced in Euros, but translates into a total of USD$5 million – around RM 15 million a year.
Friedman is offering blogging campaigns and TV programme slots, as well as strange purchasing of airline programming. Since Taib only travels in a taxpayer-funded private jet, he perhaps does not realise that there are hundreds of video items that you can view on airlines, so the roughly million dollar price tag for this service alone is unlikely to provide value for money!
In fact, auditors might like to investigate why FBC are charging at all for airline slots? Because, according to Spafax, who manage airline programming, it is the airlines who purchase the shows rather than taking payment!
The international Forum circuit is another area of PR where FBC have clearly utilised their media activities to showcase clients like Taib Mahmud. Five such events are suggested in the above proposal to Taib. They include the World Economic Forum, which is the highly reputed Swiss organisation that meets annually in Davos.
CNN anchor, John Defterios, is a World Economic Forum ‘Media Leader’, according to his personal CV. Yet, until the end of July FBC Media’s website also said:
“Defterios….. serves as President of the group. In this capacity he oversees FBC’s factual programming and media services work” [FBC Website, July 25th 2011]
Defterios has long been President of FBC Media and is a Director and Shareholder of the parent company FBC Group. He also acted as a Managing Editor of the World Business programme for CNBC, according to a recent version of the company’s website.
The CNN anchor has also acted as Chairman of the Business Week European Leadership Forum, which featured a spokesman from Malaysia’s Iskandar project in 2009, another client of FBC Media.
Likewise, Defterios has been linked to a number of other forums including the Malaysia sponsored World Islamic Economic Forum and the Global Agenda Council of the Middle East.
These events regularly featured in FBC Media programmes and individuals who are FBC Media clients have regularly attended these forums and appeared on those programmes. One client is Malaysia, however our sources have also told us that Indonesia and Kazakhstan are further clients and that the leaders of these countries have indeed been heavily promoted in CNBC’s Davos coverage and in other media outlets by Alan Friedman.
It was not just Indonesia who got the top billing from FBC at Davos. The Kazakh Premier, Karim Massimov, also got a major plug.
He was interviewed this year at Davos by none other than FBC Media’s John Defterios in his role as anchorman for CNN. CNN, however has dismissed any potential impropriety in the provenance of its programming owing to its relationship with Defterios and FBC Media. This is because CNN claims Defterios left FBC Media in March.
Sarawak Report disputes the relevance of this claim and we also dispute the evidence that Defterios left FBC Media before journalists began to enquire about the subject in late July and the company removed its original website, which can be viewed here.
Sarawak Report has already investigated the vicious blogging campaigns that are clearly linked to this proposal – see our Dirty Tricks section. Both Anwar Ibrahim and Sarawak Report have been singled out for sustained attacks by specially commissioned websites organised by the US blogger and founder of Rogue Strategic Services, Josh Trevino.
We have established clear links between FBC Media and Josh Trevino, who have both attended Malaysian government sponsored events together.
Given that Taib’s plan for wowing the world’s media with his highly expensive Global Strategic Communications plan has now been well and truly brought out into the open, we ask once again if the Chief Minister could please confirm whether he plans to save his poverty-stricken people some of their money and cancel his contract with FBC Media?
We send out the latest story at 7am Malaysia time