Bell Pottinger Public Affairs

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

Bell Pottinger Public Affairs (BPPA) is one of the largest public relations companies in the United Kingdom.

"BPPA is one of fourteen companies operating within the public relations division of Chime Communications plc," it states on its website. Their income in 1999 was £34,390,000 (political lobbying accounted for £3,440,000 of this). They gave the Labour Party more than £5,000 in sponsorship in 1999-2000.

The Chairman of Bell Pottinger is Lord Tim Bell, a friend of Thatcher's who ran the Tory Party's publicity campaigns for the 1979, 1983 and 1987 elections. He was the Deputy Chairman of Lowe Howard-Spink and Bell alongside Frank Lowe before founding Chime Communications in 1989. He got his peerage from Tony Blair in 1998.

Other ex-Labour Party staff at Bell Pottinger include Cathy McGlynn (an adviser to Jack Cunningham when he was Agriculture Secretary), Amanda Clow (from Tony Blair's office before the 1997 election), Amanda Francis (a former adviser to Mo Mowlam), Jav Chavda (a former researcher for the 'Rapid Rebuttal Unit') and Nick Williams (a researcher for David Clark).

History

In March 2004 BPPA won a $5.8m (£3.2m) four-month contract from the U.S. supported administration in Iraq to promote the establishment of democracy ahead of the handover of power to the interim Iraqi authority on 30 June. According to PR Week, the contract also includes promoting the election of an Iraqi government. "B-PC will work with its Dubai operation Bates PanGulf, and Baghdad-based media services company Balloch & Roe. A small team will be sent to work with Balloch & Roe's Arabic writers who will advise on how best to cross the cultural divide," PR Week reported. The project team, PR Week reported was headed by Mark Turnbull and the head of BPPA's Dubai office Tom Mollo.[1] The Independent (UK) reported that company founder Tim Bell described his role as "masterminding the campaign in London". [2]

Pro-Nuclear Work

Bell Pottinger have a history of nuclear clients:

BNFL

In the late nineties and up until 2002, Bell Pottinger Public Affairs was the main PR company providing strategic corporate communications advice for BNFL. In 2002, Bell Pottinger lost the account, although it still provides financial PR services and ad hoc project services, through the sister company Bell Pottinger Communications. [3] [4] [5][6]

Nirex

In 2004/05 Bell Pottinger received £24,000 from Nirex to "Provide commmunications advice related to the Nirex pension scheme." [7]

Nuclear Decomissioning Agency

In November / December 2005, Private Eye revealed that Bell Pottinger was receiving £8,000 a month to give strategic advice to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The Eye noted: " Why is the Bell Pottinger PR firm passing on potted biographies of MPs focusing on their supposed attitude to nuclear power to the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA)? The NDA's job, after all, is to clean up the mess left by the old atomic generation, not to promote new nuclear power stations."

The Eye noted: "The files certainly give the impression that Bell Pottinger thinks the NDA is part of the cosy nuclear club rather than a body charged with sorting out some of the worst problems created by the industry. In its bidding document Bell Pottinger emphasised that its chairman Kevin Murray 'worked on the BNFL account during a tumultuous four-year period'. It also said Bell Pottinger director Tim Walker was a 'former special adviser to Jack Cunningham' when he was a very pro-nuclear MP and spent 'more than a decade closely involved in the politics of the nuclear industry'. [8]

Using the Freedom of Information Act, NuclearSpin has obtained a copy of Bell Pottinger's pitch to the NDA. It underlines the extent of the companies involvement with the nuclear industry. It states that Bell Pottinger's consultants "have worked in a variety of capacities with the nuclear industry. These include:

  • Providing strategic advice and support for the Chairman and Chief Executive of BNFL including crisis management
  • Advising BNFL on corporate and financial communications
  • Developing day-to-day public affairs programmes for BNFL and the BNIF
  • Working with Parliamentarians with interests in the nuclear industry
  • Monitoring and tracking nuclear issues ranging from Parliamentary committees to public enquiries
  • Directly managing the in-house communications for the UKAEA and AEA Technology through privatisation
  • Briefing and rehearsing industry executives appearing before Select Committees." [9]

The NDA's briefing paper for potential PR consultants boasts that the "NDA is not unique in being an organisation committed to open and transparent engagement with stakeholders, but it may well be the first organisation that has such objectives built in to its statutory requirements". Nevertheless, Bell Pottinger's successful pitch includes:

  • "Advising on the handling of particular announcements identifying the issues and bear traps in advance, advising on messaging, media strategy and tactics, questions and answers"
  • "Advising on an appropriate contact programme ie who are the journalists that should be courted, what are their issues, how best to handle them"
  • "Providing off the record information". [9]

In August 2006, the NDA put its entire PR business up for grabs, [10] although it was announced in January 2007 that Bell Pottinger had retained the account. According to PR Week, as well as strategic advice and Public Affairs, the agency’s new remit covers regeneration activity in communities affected by the closure of nuclear power stations.

The £150,000 contract, will be led by Chairman Kevin Murray who reports to NDA head of communications Bill Hamilton and London-based director of communications Jon Phillips. It lasts 12 months with the chance to renew for a further two years. [11]

EU petition manipulation

As an effort to greater transparency and public input, the EU commission introduced a series of petitions as a means to obtain public input. These petitions became the target of two PR companies (Bell Pottinger and Fleishman-Hillard) who offered to manipulate the results to affect EU legislation.[12]

Wikipedia manipulation

One of Bell Pottinger's services/operations include manipulating Wikipedia entries and blog entries to (1) alter the perception of their clients or (2) smear/harm critics of their clients.[13]

Clients

Clients include:

Corporations

Governments/states or government agencies

Individuals

Staff

Former Staff

Contact information

Bell Pottinger Public Affairs
6th Floor, Holborn Gate
330 High Holborn
London WC1V 7QC
Phone 020 7861 2400
Website: www.bppa.co.uk

Resources

External Resources


Related SourceWatch Articles

External links

References

  1. Sarah Robertson, "Bell Pottinger in Iraq democracy PR drive", PR Week, March 11, 2004.
  2. Ian Burrell, "Lord Bell set to promote democracy in new Iraq," Independent (UK), March 13, 2004.
  3. BNFL, "BNFL Announces 1999/2000 Annual Results", Media Release, September 14, 2000. (This page is archived in the Internet Archive}
  4. BNFL, "BNFL's Annual Results - Building Solid Foundations for a Strong Future", Media Release, June 28, 2001. (This page is archived in the Internet Archive}
  5. H. Williams, "BNFL Takes On Finsbury As Dewhurst Wraps Up Revamp", PR Week, 5 July, 2002.
  6. Peter Simpson, WSW Picks Up BNFL Public Affairs Work", PR Week, 22 April, 2002.
  7. David Wild, Freedom of Information Request, Letter to Jean McSorley, Senior Advisor to Greenpeace UK, July 15, 2005.
  8. Nuclear family: Bell Pottinger profiles MPs", "HP Sauce Column", Private Eye, Issue:1146, 25 November-8 December, 2005.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Bell Pottinger Communications, in FOIA release from NDA to NuclearSpin, February 2006.
  10. Sarah Robertson, ""Nuclear Waste Body NDA In Comms Review", PR Week, August 4, 2006.
  11. Sarah Robertson, "Bell Pottinger Retains Grip", PR Week, January 17, 2007. (Subscription required).
  12. Kevin Rawlinson, Revealed: lobbyists' plans to hijack 'people's petitions', Independent, 10 April 2012.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 David Pegg, Melanie Newman and Oliver Wright, The arms company, the oligarch and the ex-PM's sister-in-law: lobby firm's Wikipedia hit list, Independent, 8 December 2011.]
  14. Chime Communications, "Audited Preliminary Results For The Year", Media Release, March 08, 2005.
  15. "Bell Pottinger to Manage Community Relations for Battersea Power Station," The Holmes Report (sub req'd), December 8, 2008.
  16. "[1]"
  17. Page 50 "[2]"
  18. Page 48 "[3]"
  19. Page 47 "[4]"
  20. Page 47 "[5]"
  21. Page 47 "[6]"
  22. Andrew Marshall, "Thaksin Shinawatra, shooting to win", The Sunday Times, December 5, 2007. (The mention of Bell Pottinger is on page 4).
  23. Chime Communications, "ACCA Appoints Bell Pottinger Public Affairs", Media Release, March 07, 2005.
  24. FD-LLM, FD LLM: Senior People", accessed December 2007.