Three firms shortlisted for nuclear power PR campaign

By Melissa Chi, The Malaysian Insider

The government is searching for a public relations agency to help build public support for nuclear power, as part of a plan to make the country ready for an alternative energy source by 2013.

The Holmes Report, a New York-based publication that serves the public relations community, reported this week that the Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation (MNPC), a government body formed in January to spearhead the deployment of nuclear energy, is understood to have shortlisted three firms for the sensitive project.

“It is understood that a formal pitch is yet to take place. A source involved in the process said that fees had not been confirmed, but were expected to be in the seven-figure range,” the report said.

The invitation for an international public relations effort to boost support for nuclear energy could spark controversy after the recent row over reports that Putrajaya paid RM58 million to FBC Media to burnish its international image on various international broadcast channels.

British media regulator Office of Communications (Ofcom) is probing programmes made by FBC Media for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

It is understood Putrajaya has now ended its contract with FBC Media after an exposé revealed Malaysian leaders routinely appeared in paid-for interviews on global television programmes on CNBC.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) terminated FBC Media’s contract earlier this month, just months after another public relations firm, APCO Worldwide from the United States, met an ignominious end for alleged links to Israel.

Global broadcasters, including CNN and CNBC, have been scrambling to contain any potential fallout after allegations of impropriety surfaced following the exposé by whistleblower Sarawak Report.

The latest plans to launch a publicity campaign for nuclear power also comes in the midst of public concern about nuclear safety, spurred by the ongoing crisis at the nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan.

According to briefing notes obtained by the Holmes Report, public relations counsel is being sought to ensure that stakeholders are able to make an informed decision about the proposed plan by that date.

“The bottomline: Malaysia has to be nuclear-ready and get [the] mandate of the public by 2013, when the government will make the final decision and reveal the site,” reads the brief, according to the report.

The Holmes Report also said boosting public support for nuclear power to above 50 per cent is a priority, along with managing concerns and issues.