BBC broke standards over paid-for Malaysia programmes

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

A British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) channel was found to have breached its editorial guidelines and aired paid-for programmes that were favourable to the Malaysian government, its corporate watchdog said today.

Several UK dailies reported that the BBC Trust has banned the BBC’s World News channel from buying certain programmes and accepting some sponsorship deals, after an investigation found serious breaches of the corporation’s editorial guidelines in shows about subjects including Malaysia.

One of them was a show called “Taking the Credit”, which featured carbon trading and was first aired in 2009.

According to British daily The Times, the investigation by the trust’s editorial standards committee (ESC) found a further 15 programmes in serious violation of the BBC’s editorial or sponsorship guidelines were shown across Europe and elsewhere.

The BBC internal committee ruled there had been conflicts of interest in eight documentaries about Malaysia because of an “apparent financial relationship” between the government and FBC Media, the production company, reported the Guardian newspaper.

The Guardian also reported FBC Media’s parent company, FBC Group, confirming to the BBC investigation that the Malaysian government was a client.

“Based on evidence before the committee of the apparent financial relationship between FBC Media (UK) Ltd and the Malaysian government, the committee concluded that FBC Media (UK) Ltd was not an appropriate producer for these particular programmes, being about Malaysia, its industries and Malaysian government policies.

“International audiences must be able to rely on the same integrity and independence in the BBC’s editorial decisions as audiences in the UK,” ESC chair Richard Ayre was reported as saying by The Guardian.

He added that the World News channel has been banned from buying programmes for a low or nominal cost and it will “no longer accept sponsorship from non-commercial organisations”.

TV company FBC Media has been found to be at the centre of the Malaysia news-fixing scandal facing broadcasters BBC and CNBC, and is facing collapse.

The London-based firm and its parent company FBC Group have gone into administration — a legal term that allows a company facing bankruptcy to carry on business — following reports it accepted £17million (RM85 million) from Putrajaya to burnish the Najib administration’s image on global broadcast networks.