The BBC was forced to broadcast an apology to viewers after commissioning a production company with close links to the Malaysian government.
FBC Media, which was responsible for producing eight programmes on Malaysia, was later found to have a ‘financial relationship’with the country’s Government which the BBC said it was unaware of.
A former version of the FBC’s website started that: ‘FBC regularly creates one off productions as well as series of documentaries that investigate our clients’ issues and subtly position them in a positive space within their target markets.”
The BBC Trust found that three current affairs programmes on BBC World News were sponsored and three others were partly sponsored by external organisations with a direct interest in the subject matter.
Although none of the programmes breached the BBC guidelines on impartiality and none of the news bulletins were affected, the BBC was found to have breached guidelines on conflicts of interest as well as sponsorship guidelines.
In total the breaches involved fifteen programmes which were acquired for low or minimal cost broadcast between February 2009 and July 2011.
The Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) of the BBC Trust said in its findings that the breaches were ‘serious”, that ‘they went to the heart of the BBC’s international reputation and risked undermining the editorial integrity of its output”.
BBC World News broadcast the apology four times on Saturday, February 11. It is also available on the BBC Trust’s website.
A BBC World News spokesperson said: ‘We have accepted the BBC Trust’s findings and also apologised to viewers.
‘We are committed to the highest standards of broadcasting. Since these issue were raised, we’ve brought forward a series of changes to tighten our systems and strengthen the protection of our editorial independence.’
The BBC has also established an action plan endorsed by the Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee.