September 29, 2011
by Ian Burrell
September 29, 2011
Microsoft has been sucked into the row surrounding a London-based media company currently under investigation by broadcasters for making editorial programmes without declaring it had a commercial relationship with some of those it featured.
Both the BBC and the US-owned broadcaster CNBC are investigating FBC Media following an investigation by The Independent which showed it had made numerous factual programmes about Malaysia after being allocated millions of pounds by the country’s government to promote it.
This newspaper has evidence that Microsoft was “guaranteed” coverage on a flagship programme which FBC was commissioned to make for CNBC – which is screened in Britain – for a major launch that the global technology company was planning in Europe. CNBC recently suspended the show, World Business, pending the outcome of its investigation.
The Independent has seen a nine-page letter written to Microsoft’s senior communications managers, in which FBC promised coverage of its opening of the European Microsoft Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany, and a second project in St Petersburg, Russia.
The document referred to World Business under the heading “FBC Guaranteed Distribution Placement”. It told Microsoft: “Our flagship programme, World Business, is a weekly half-hour business news magazine, which covers the trends shaping business, particularly from a European perspective.
“We can foresee placing coverage of the Aachen opening within the programme the weekend of May 1&2, which means guaranteed placement on CNBC Europe, PBS-TV in the US, Star World Asia and 12 national broadcast markets in Western and Eastern Europe.” PBS is America’s public service broadcaster and Star World is part of Rupert Murdoch’s global News Corp media empire.
In its letter to the Microsoft PR chiefs, FBC pointed out: “Due to our distribution agreements with each of the broadcasters, FBC maintains final editorial control over the reports featured within any of its broadcast programmes.”
Last night CNBC said: “We have suspended all broadcasts of the World Business programme indefinitely. We cannot comment further for legal reasons.”
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