February 13, 2012
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.
BBC World News viewers from Kuala Lumpur to Khartoum and Bangkok to Buenos Aires will watch the remarkable broadcast, available in 295 million homes, 1.7 million hotel rooms, 81 cruise ships, 46 airlines and on 35 mobile phone platforms, at four different times, staged in order to reach audiences in different time zones. The BBC will apologise for breaking “rules aimed at protecting our editorial integrity”.
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.