CNBC and BBC axe TV shows over Sarawak link allegations
US satellite and cable television news channel CNBC has canceled its flagship international business show, "World Business," following allegations that the lts production company, FactBased Communications (FBC), was doubling as a PR firm for Malaysian politicians alleged to be behind wide-spread illegal logging and other corruption.
Meanwhile the BBC, another FBC customer, has suspended broadcasting all FBI-produced programs and launched an internal investigation.
Sarawak Report, a news website run by Clare Rewcastle, the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on Monday revealed that the UK-based FBC Group had been paid USD5 million by Abdul Taib Mahmud ("Taib"), Chief Minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, to promote his battered international reputation.
Other payments to FBC have allegedly been made by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, and by palm oil group Sime Darby, which has been linked to deforestation charges in Malaysian Borneo.
"We can expose FBC Media - a TV production company which doubles as a 'strategic communications' firm - for conducting an illicit scam over the past decade, secretly selling slots across a number of supposedly impartial TV news programs to promote its international clients, including Najib Razak and Taib Mahmud," said the Sarawak Report.
"The practice, which is designed to deceive hundreds of millions of TV viewers, has netted the company tens of millions of dollars, providing characters like Taib Mahmud with positive publicity on prime international TV shows. It is all paid for, of course, by their own taxpayers, whom they are also seeking to dupe and impress," the website said.
On 27 March 2011, the CNBC's "World Business" show broadcast an interview with Taib, in which he claimed that 80 percent of the state's forests were "almost intact" tropical rainforest. The statement was broadcast uncommented despite being in stark contrast to all independent analysis and to Taib's own earlier statements. In April 2011, Taib publicly admitted that 90 percent of the state's harvestable trees had been felled.
By broadcasting sponsored news and current affairs programs, CNBC and the BBC appear to have breached British and American media regulations, according to the Swiss-based activist group, The Bruno Manser Fund, which is demanding an apology from both networks.