Why are Malaysians paying for Najib and BN leaders' global public relations campaign?
Alongside this was also a number of positive reports about Sarawak’s development and the benefits of palm oil.
These reports were being featured in some of the major global news networks, without mentioning any of the state’s dire environmental, human rights and economic problems.
Our team at Sarawak Report decided to investigate what was going on and where the funding for all this lay.
Following hard on the heels of the current revelations on phone and computer hacking by some UK newspapers, we have exposed a disgraceful scam selling slots on TV news shows to the highest bidder.
We can also reveal that Barisan Nasional’s top leaders in Malaysia have been at the heart of the corruption, using taxpayers’ money to promote themselves on business shows and documentaries.
The evidence for these expenses has been written into the Malaysian government’s own budget records.
Huge sums of money, RM57 million over the past two years, have been paid out to a UK media company FBC Media as fees for a “Global Strategic Communications” campaign.
RM57 million for air slots
PKR general-secretary Saifuddin Nasution had in fact queried the amount in Parliament last year.
Well, in the absence of any answers from BN, we can now supply him with the reason.
FBC Media is not only a public relations company offering image-building advice to anyone rich enough to afford them but they also double up as a TV production company.
The company focuses on producing business and sports news programmes, as well as current affairs documentaries for some of the World’s top TV companies such as CNBC, CNN and BBC World.
Among its distinguished Malaysian clients are current Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Sime Darby chairman Musa Hitam. Taib has also now joined FBC Media’s stable of clients.
All these leaders have been corruptly buying, through FBC Media, airtime slots to promote themselves on these networks and channels.
Several top TV executives in the UK and the US and their company bosses are now going to have to answer some highly embarrassing questions from their licencing authorities.
How could these companies possibly commission such dodgy programmes from a PR company all these years?
The reason, of course, has been the scramble for cheap programming.
With too many competing TV channels chasing after diminishing advertising revenues, it is now a clients’ market and slots go to the highest bidder.
FBC Media, which is part of a conglomerate with business links in India, Europe and the US, was able to offer tantalisingly low cost (and in some cases even free) programming because they were raking in money from their Malaysian political PR clients, who were queuing up to appear in those supposedly unbiased and impartial news shows.
It breaks every ethical rule in the book of broadcast journalism and CNBC, BBC, CNN and others will have to pay the price for allowing it to happen.
But from the point of view of the Malaysian taxpayer there is the question of: why are we paying for this expensive and illegal PR?
Why is there a need to improve the image of BN leaders at home and abroad?
Still, it may not come as a huge surprise that Taib, Najib, Abdullah and Musa willingly do business with an unscrupulous company like FBC Media.
We at Sarawak Report will slowly reveal the depth of FBC Media’s business ties with their Malaysian government clients under the pretext of the “Global Strategic Communications” campaign.
For now, we leave Malaysian taxpayers with a final thought.
Not only has BN been spending millions on a mean and dirty political campaign that has no place in the government budget, but they have funded a flop as well.
After all, we have exposed FBC Media without too much difficulty and in the process their multi-million dollar positive PR campaign looks set to spectacularly backfire on their gullible BN clients.
Clare Rewcastle Brown is the editor/founder of Sarawak Report. She is also an FMT columnist.