September 7th, 2012
(HigginsBlog) – Journalists subject to massive CNN censorship help expose the disturbing trend of merging government funded advertisements in with regular news coverage.
It is no secret that viewership of the corporate media news outlets are on an epic downward spiral.
But what many don’t realize is as the viewership of those programs decline so do the revenues from advertisers paying for commercials on those TV programs.
The trend has forced these news outlets to turn to a new sources of funding to keep their organizations alive.
Among those sources of income are partnerships with governments who are taking an ever increasing role in funding state-sponsored news.
These partnerships have given rise to the merging of government propaganda with regular news which is then displayed on air for the public to watch with no disclaimers or transparency about the relationship.
The backlash of these partnerships is editorial staff increasingly putting pressure on reporters to engage in self-censorship on behalf of the governments and corporations who pay for such pre-packaged news advertisements.
Yesterday Constitutional lawyer and author Glenn Greenwald published a shocking expose on the Guardian detailing massive CNN censorship that was born of such a relationship.
Amber Lyon: I saw first-hand that these regime claims were lies, and I couldn’t believe CNN was making me put what I knew to be government lies into my reporting.
I saw first-hand that these regime claims were lies, and I couldn’t believe CNN was making me put what I knew to be government lies into my reporting.
- Amber Lyon
The revelations in that article come from Amber Lyon and several other current and former CNN journalists.
Here’s an RT report on the censorship.
Glenn’s article focuses entirely on CNN and the reason for that is CNN’s journalists have become fed up with the censorship that they are being subjected to due to the secret government funding.
The article is accompanied by another article on the Guardian exposing CNN’s business of packaging and publishing government propaganda as regular news.
Here’s a clip from that lengthy companion article revealing how CNN publishes Bahrain sponsored propaganda as legitimate news.
CNNi’s financial dealings with the regime in Bahrain
At the same time as CNN was covering the regime, Bahrain was an aggressive participant in CNN’s various “sponsorship” opportunities, with official agencies of the regime often boasting of how their extensive involvement with CNN was improving the nation’s image around the world. Beyond that, there are multiple examples of CNN International producing plainly propagandistic coverage of the regime, often without any minimal disclosure of the vested interests of its sources.
The primary regime agency exploiting these opportunities at CNNi is the Bahrain Economic Development Board (BEDB). It describes itself as “responsible for marketing the Kingdom of Bahrain abroad”. The agency is chaired by “His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince”.
In its 2010 annual report, the BEDB – in the section entitled “Spreading the Word – at Home and Abroad” – proudly touted its extensive involvement with CNN:
The BEDB also featured an extensive, image-improving advertising campaign on CNN:
This extensive relationship had been building for many years. A 2008 article in a journal devoted to media advertisement in the Middle East trumpeted:
“CNN International announced that its coverage of the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos is being exclusively sponsored by the Bahrain Economic Development Board (BEDB) for the second year running.”
It quoted Rani R Raad, CNNi’s advertising head:
“Bahrain is one of the fastest growing economies in the Middle East and World Economic Forum is a natural fit for the BEDB to reach our audience of global opinion formers and influencers.”
In a 2010 announcement heralding more BEDB sponsorship of CNN’s Davos coverage, including “exclusive BEDB branding” on CNN.com’s World Economic Forum microsite, Rand stated:
“We’re delighted that our partnership with the BEDB remains an enduring and successful one.”
As negative news stories of its brutal repression grew in the wake of the Arab Spring, the regime undertook a massive, very well-funded PR campaign to improve its image. Central to that campaign was CNN International.
One large contract was with the advertising giant M&C Saatchi. As Bahrain Watch documents, “around the same time that the Arab Spring protests began in Bahrain in February 2011, M&C Saatchi was awarded a contract by the Bahrain International Circuit to advertise the 2011 Formula 1 race,” and was then “awarded a five-year contract worth BD 5.5m (US$14,575,000) by the Economic Development Board” to “develop and implement a comprehensive media and promotional plan” for Bahrain. As Bahrain Watch notes, a new contract with Bahrain’s ministry of culture resulted in this:
And as noted in the accompanying article on Lyon and CNNi’s refusal to broadcast the “iRevolution” documentary, at least one of the largest PR firms working for the regime, Qorvis Communications, voiced complaints to CNNi about its negative coverage of the regime.
Source: The Guardian
To give readers an explicit example of what this government sponsored propaganda looks like the companion article includes this CNN video spot which promoting the government sponsored propaganda as an exclusive ‘CNN special’ on Bahrain.
The article goes into detail explaining how CNN has created entire new shows which airs segments of government sponsored propaganda such as this as ‘special coverage’ to the unknowing public.
That example is embedded in another part of the article which which further details CNN’s merging of state-sponsored propaganda into regular news so to deceive viewers from realizing they are watching propaganda.
CNNi’s merger of advertisement and news for Bahrain
The regime in Bahrain often openly trumpets the hagiographical treatment it receives from CNNi. In 2010, BEDB’s website gushed about CNNi’s “Eye on Bahrain” series, which had been re-branded as CNN i-List Bahrain. “Between the 8th and the 12th of March 2010, CNN’s Richard Quest with John Defterios – Quest Means Business show was broadcast live from Bahrain,” the BEDB wrote. The regime agency described the CNNi show as thus:
“[A] comprehensive review of Bahrain’s economy and future direction was presented through a series of interviews with various ministers, sector specialists and more.”
The BEDB page touting the show features several incredibly supine interviews by CNNi of various Bahraini officials, including its crown prince. It features a CNNi segment on the status of Bahrain as a close and loyal US ally. Still another segment hailed the kindgom’s “established legal framework” as the key to avoiding the worst damage of the financial crisis.
To describe the entire program as a massive, blatant propaganda show for the regime is to understate the case. Indeed, as noted above, the BEDB itself described the program as “a joint cooperation between CNN and” itself. CNNi’s promotion of the program, which contains no disclosure whatsoever of the involvement of the regime in its funding and sponsorship, conveys exactly the tone and substance of this “reporting”:
This type of fawning coverage of the regime has been standard course for CNN for years. In 2008, CNN’s John Defterios, on his “Marketplace Middle East” blog, heaped praise on the crown prince. Of his first time in the prince’s presence, he wrote:
“A big smile and warm greeting clearly mask the undertaking within the court of the crown prince to complete an economic and political reform process.”
Defterios hailed the Bahraini prince as a reformer who believes “there was too much resistance to change.” His Marketplace show has featured wholly sycophantic interviews with the CEO of the BEDB.
CNN’s efforts on behalf of the regime often violate the most basic precepts of journalistic disclosure obligations, sometimes in ways that are shocking even to the cynical eye. Just two weeks ago, on the website for Fareed Zakaria’s program, CNN featured an article by Rob Sobhani touting all of the “innovative” green energy policies Bahrain is pursuing. This is all designed, Sobhani wrote, “to make Bahrain a global leader in combating climate change and global warming”. Indeed, he said, “both issues are personally important to King Hamad.”
Who is Sobhani? The most recent CNN article heralding Bahrain’s energy policies identifies him only as “president of Caspian Group Holdings, which has interests in green energy and infrastructure projects, and author of ‘King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: A Leader of Consequence’”. (His book on the House of Saud is every bit as sycophantic as the title suggests. Sobhani’s own company itself says the book “should be of value to those seeking to learn more about Saudi Arabia and its visionary king”; unsurprisingly, in his CNN article on Bahrain, he managed to work in praise for Saudi energy policies as well).
But there is much more to Sobhani than that. In a 2011 article also published by CNN on Zakaria’s site, Sobhani purported to describe “what the Kings of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are thinking”.
Roughly two weeks after Lyon and her crew returned from Bahrain having witnessed pervasive brutality from the regime, Sobhani assured CNN readers in that article:
“I’ve met with the King of Bahrain on numerous occasions. This is a man who wants reform … When he talks about reform, he really means it.”
As usual, he also had very kind words for the Saudi rulers:
“The King is an environmentalist. If I was President Obama, I would say, ‘King Abdullah, let’s partner together on the environment.’”
The disclosure line about Sobhani on that 2011 article is telling. After noting that his company is “a group with interests in energy and infrastructure projects”, it added that “he engages extensively with the Kings of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for work.” In other words, CNN’s 2011 expert on what the Saudi and Bahraini regimes are thinking is someone who has extensive business interests with those two regimes.
But at least, in 2011, it disclosed this glaring conflict of interest. By contrast, in 2012, when it gave Sobhani a platform to hype the deep and profound concern for global warming on the part of the Bahraini King, there was no such disclosure. One would have thought that Sobhani was simply an objective expert in the region who happened to be deeply impressed with the sensitive energy policies of these Gulf regimes.
At times, CNN International does not even bother with any pretense. In 2010, it directly broadcast a report straight from Bahraini state television glorifying a military parade held in the Kingdom. Although a quick disclaimer at the start of the segment indicated that the report was “not prepared by CNN journalists”, it bore the CNN logo the entire time it was shown, and had no critical commentary or challenge from anyone. It simply heralded the greatness and nobility of the Bahrain military and the regime that operates it.
For programs CNNi produces in “association with” these regimes, even the minimal disclosure it provides often ends up omitted. As one former CNN producer explained, budget pressures mean that segments from the “paid for” programs about these countries sometimes end up being spliced into news reports with no disclosure that the regimes sponsored their production. The line at CNNi between news and advertising is severely blurred by these arrangements, but the line only gets blurrier as its executives expand the scope of these income-generating opportunities in partnership with the world’s most repressive regimes.
After reading through the article and being informed of how CNN works you should also be aware that CNN is not alone in this practice.
Financial news outlets such as Bloomberg and CNBC often air ‘exclusive coverage’ on behalf of Wall Street companies which are nothing more than paid advertising packages.
These packages will spotlight products or feature interviews with executives.
Wired’s autopia routinely passes off pre-packaged advertisements as lelegitimate auto industry coverage.
President Bush openly admitted that he provided pre-packaged Video News Releases which corporate news outlets simply slap their logo on and air them to the public as legitimate news.
Source: Higgins Blog