Firm in BBC news-fixing row targeted poverty guru

Earth Institute director denies he occupied an 'ambassador' role with palm oil producer

The London-based television company being investigated by Ofcom over a global news fixing row tried to “cultivate” a world-famous environmental economist and other leading opinion formers in the green movement for the documentaries it made for the BBC and other news broadcasters.

FBC Media claims in its promotional literature that it targeted Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York, to be an “ambassador” for its corporate client on programmes it made about the controversial palm oil industry in Malaysia.

Mr Sachs, a special adviser to United Nations secretary general Ban-Ki Moon, was a prominent interviewee on a BBC World “Third Eye” documentary about Malaysia which was produced by FBC. The Independent has established that FBC was paid £17m by the Malaysian government to work on a “global strategic communications campaign”. The documentary was one of eight FBC programmes made for the BBC found to have been in “serious” breach of corporation editorial guidelines in a report issued yesterday by the BBC Trust.

FBC also worked for Sime Darby, the world’s biggest palm oil producer, and in a report for the Malaysian company gives a series of “campaign highlights”, among which is the “cultivation of influential ‘ambassadors’ such as the Earth Institute’s Jeffrey Sachs”. It refers to Sime Darby “champions”, among whom Mr Sachs is listed.

In a statement, the Earth Institute said Professor Sachs was “surprised and dismayed to see this completely inaccurate and utterly absurd portrayal of him”. It said: “He is not an ambassador or anything else for this company (Sime Darby). He has absolutely no personal relationship with the company and has never, indeed would never, serve as an ‘ambassador’ or ‘champion’ to any corporation.”

The Institute said Sachs had been “mischaracterized” in a way that was “quite troubling”.

A spokesman for Professor Sachs said that he had visited Sime Darby’s plantations but only for the purposes of research for the University of Malaya and that he had raised concerns about the deforestation that he saw. He also held meetings with Malaysian government and Sime Darby officials at which those officials expressed determination to pursue sustainable development approaches to palm oil production.

When Mr Sachs featured in the BBC’s “Third Eye”, he said: “The way that Malaysia, for example, developed palm oil with smallholders who were working in larger areas and often with government leadership…has been exemplary.” The author of New York Times best-sellers The End of Poverty and Common Wealth , he also contributed an authored piece to an advertising supplement in the International Herald Tribune which FBC featured under the heading “sophisticated corporate messaging within an editorial framework” in a slide show of FBC corporate case studies for 2007-2008.

“Some promising steps have been taken by Malaysia in recent years, which may set a powerful example for the rest of Asia,” Sachs wrote. “The government is working closely with leading companies, such as the palm oil giant Sime Darby, which have recognised that long-term environmental sustainability is vital to the business interests of serious, law-abiding companies with long-time horizons.” Sime Darby is a major donor of the Earth Institute. In a 2010 report, the Institute says: “Sime Darby, a multinational corporation based in Malaysia, bolstered our Tropical Agriculture and China 2049 programs with a $500,000 gift. The company created an international advisory panel to enhance its sustainability initiatives across its core business operations worldwide, and it became a member of the Earth Institute’s Corporate Circle.”

The Earth Institute said $250,000 had been spent on research on sustainable development in China and on a digital soil mapping initiative led by the Institute.

Mr Sachs was also featured as an expert on “World Business”, a programme that FBC made each week for the global business channel CNBC, which has been suspended the programme indefinitely following The Independent ’s revelations.

FBC set out its television production methods in a documentary proposal made to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council as recently as April. The London company said it would include in the proposed documentary interviews with leading figures from the Malaysian palm oil industry, “complemented by supporting interviews with Malaysian government officials, industry leaders and Western third party champions”. The proposed documentary would “put a particular focus on small farm holders” in order to minimize the idea that the industry was dominated by “large corporate interests”. FBC has recently gone into administration.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Head of Marketing - London

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketing Manager / Dig...

Brand Manager / Account Manager

£28 - 36k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Brand Manager / Senior Account Manager is nee...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week