BBC pays for the training it banned

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The Independent Online
STEVE BOGGAN

The BBC has paid up to pounds 2,500 a day for managers to be given media training by former BBC staff, even though its own broadcasters are banned from giving such instruction.

InterMedia Training, of which the newsreader Andrew Harvey used to be a director, has been hired several times by the Corporation to teach senior personnel how to handle tough interviews. Yet the BBC's Producers' Guidelines state: "No BBC presenter or editorial person regularly involved in news and current affairs or topical programmes should coach people in how to be interviewed. We must not be party to the training of potential interviewees in how to present themselves in the best light."

Cathie Fraser, managing director of London-based InterMedia, confirmed yesterday that "some senior people" within the BBC had been given media training by her company at rates of up to pounds 2,500 a day. She said no serving BBC journalists - including Mr Harvey - had conducted the training, but former BBC people had.

Records at Companies House show that Mr Harvey, a Six O'Clock and breakfast newsreader, was appointed a director of her company on 4 October last year, although Ms Fraser, a former BBC journalist of 15 years standing, said he had since resigned.

The disclosure is likely to embarrass the Corporation in the light of its admission in the Independent yesterday that a secret review of its guidelines has been under way for a month because of concern over the amount of outside work being conducted by its top presenters.

Most of the BBC's best-known broadcasters work on a freelance basis, enabling some of them to make huge sums of money outside the Corporation by working for companies, chairing conferences and meetings, and performing in internal company videos. Fees range up to pounds 5,000 a day. The BBC is anxious to ensure there is no potential for conflicts of interest as a result of freelance journalists' outside activities.

Ms Fraser said a considerable number of BBC people - including a number of high-profile journalists - had conducted such training for her, in apparent contravention of the Producers' Guidelines. However, it was carried out on the premise that media training was not "teaching the opposition tricks", but was a necessary skill to be passed on to company executives and spokespeople so they were not dazzled by the complexities of cameras and studios.

"The object of media training is to make company spokespersons familiar with a highly technical and often hostile environment," she said. "It gives them the opportunity to have a greater understanding of how news programmes are compiled and to give them practice in interviews with skilled broadcast journalists."

Ms Fraser said she knew of occasions when trainers later came face to face with people they had trained. But she added: "I can think of no occasion when either the client or the journalist felt compromised."

Other journalists from ITN, radio and newspapers also worked for her, she said.

The BBC said Mr Harvey's media training activities would be raised with him during the review of the guidelines. He was not available yesterday, although Ms Fraser stressed that no work was done for the BBC while he was a director.

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