Thursday, 18 November 2010

A message to the 2018 Bid Team: Welcome to my World

The news that the chief executive of our 2018 World Cup bid has described the BBC’s decision to air a Panorama programme about corruption in FIFA on the eve of the decisive vote as ‘unpatrotic’ betrays a staggering arrogance and a total ignorance about media matters.

There are a number of points I would like to make. Firstly, since when does a non-elected official get to decide what is and what isn’t patriotic?

Secondly, if he didn’t know, this is how the media operates in this country. Journalists and broadcasters will decide content and timings. I, as a PR professional, will make suggestions as to stories and timings of stories but they are at liberty to ignore me.

Sometimes what the media does is infuriating and against an organisation’s best interest, but that’s tough. It’s the price of having a free press which is more than what our bid competitor Russia has.

Finally, all this, for me, has uncomfortable echoes of the Bush Administration’s reaction to dissent over the invasion of Iraq. It was a short walk from labeling any questioning of the decision to invade as unpatriotic to the passing of the Patriot Act, torture and Extraordinary Rendition, whereby the CIA, knowing full well that torture was unconstitutional in the USA, flew prisoners to other countries in order to waterboard them.

In short, the Bush Administration encouraged a culture of “anything goes in the name of national security”. I, for one, do not want a culture of “anything goes in the name of winning massive global sporting events, including bribery and backhanders”.

If that is the price of winning I’m not sure it’s worth entering. The BBC has to stand firm.


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