MoD publicity - not

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Richard_North, Nov 15, 2007.

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    Now, two days after The Daily Telegraph broke the news, brief details of the British Army operations in Musa Qala have finally hit the MoD website.

    But the fact that only the Telegraph ran the initial reports, from an embedded reporter, shrieks of a deal, the MoD trading exclusive coverage of an event in exchange for a guarantee of publicity. Thus it is that news of a major British operation is deemed to be the property of the MoD, to be traded for favours offered by a commercial company – in this case The Daily Telegraph - to exploit for its own financial gain.

    Clearly though, if information about British military actions is a tradable commodity, the MoD (and its predecessor) has been missing all sorts of opportunities. Just think, the War Office could have given exclusive rights to, say, The Daily Express (then the biggest seller) for coverage of the 1944 invasion of Normandy. Bids for Market Garden, the ill-fated Arnhem operation, could have been put up for auction and, of course, a premium might have been expected for the crossing of the Rhine.

    But why stop there? The possibilities are endless. The MoD could get press organs to sponsor different battles, encouraged by opportunities to place their logos on the armoured vehicles and advertising slogans on personal armour. The Sun would really go for that. That newspaper might even sponsor a new Predator UAV, which the MoD could arrange to tow an advertising banner over the battlefield.

    Even then, the creativity should not stop there - why limit this to deals with the media? With a bit of imagination, the MoD might get some interest from MacDonalds, with prominent slogans on the soldiers' rations, and exclusive interviews with victorious troops who could be schooled to extol the virtues of "chicken McNuggets" as a war-winner.

    However, in the interests of fairness, one must not forget the enemy. With a little bit of careful negotiation, the Taleban could perhaps be persuaded to share the TV rights. The battles could then be carefully orchestrated so that live coverage could be beamed to the UK to coincide with prime-time television. The highest bidders could also be offered post-battle interviews with both sides, while the rest would be given action-replays of the highlights, at reduced fees.

    Come to think of it, if the MoD really got organised, it could arrange "premier league" battles and run a whole season of them. There could be a cup for the victors, the "finals" being fought out at the end of the campaigning season. These "premier league" battles would, of course, attract long-term sponsorship deals, with the sponsors' logos embossed on the SA 80s and air support provided exclusively by B&Q Eurofighters.

    Therein, obviously, lies the counter to defence cuts. Once the commercial opportunities of British operations have been fully exploited, the military could become wholly self-financing.

    And, as historians write of the Barclay's battle for Musa Qala, fought by the Clydesdale Bank Guards and the 40th Vauxhall MasterFix Commandos in their Subaru Vikings, we could rest in the comforting knowledge that, at last, the British Army will be properly kitted out. Furthermore, we look forward to seeing the cup winners welcomed home after each successful season, to do tours of their home towns in the Carlsberg open-topped bus.

    I think the MoD is really onto something here.
  2. Amusing.

    While I am no great fan of MOD news management strategies, I am not sure of your implication.

    Tom Coghlan's piece in the Telegraph (originally published 12 Nov and updated 14 Nov - LINK) was written from the perspective of somebody who accompanied B Coy 40 Cdo RM on the operation. It is hardly surprising that an official view should come out slightly later on the MOD website, which anyway does not pretend to be a comprehensive source of defence news. Do you know if there have been complaints from other journalists in theatre?
  3. Richard

    Knowing quite a lot about this subject and how embeds are managed, I can assure you that you are talking absolute rubbish.
  4. Can't comment on this case - and have witnessed enough embeds producing their own words often portraying a different picture to the official line to cut away the conspiracy theorists. At the same time, there have been articles resulting from exclusive briefings since March 2003, that (IMHO) should have been delivered to the media in the form of a press release available to all.
  5. Welcome back Richard, nice to see you getting the hang of the place now and postuing with cynicism and humour as opposed to the old style of hair shirt for a change. You'll find it much more fun this way and people will also talk to you.
  6. The implication is obvious - that the MoD did an exclusive deal with the Telegraph and held back information on the operation to give the paper a clear run. This is not the first time that the MoD have run this strategy and yes I have heard a number of complaints from journalists about the way the MoD seems to be playing "favourites" with different media outlets.

    The idea of giving "exclusives" to individual papers is one fraught with problems. In this case, the Telegraph would probably printed a story anyway so the effect of giving it an exclusive simply ensured that no other newspaper published it - the story is now "old news".

    It also pisses off the other journalists and their papers and drags the MoD into the media infighting, where all the media start demanding their own exclusives. The MoD is then open to charges of favouritism and the media outlets that feel aggrieved simply take their bats home and either report nothing, or print hostile stories.

    In effect, therefore, it is an example of extremely bad media management - the net effect is less coverage not more.

    More to the point, once security cleared, information on operations is or should be public property, not a tradable commodity - it should be published openly at the first available opportunity and accessible to all.

    BTW - this is not about how embeds are managed. It is about the London end of the operation and about deals in high (and low) places.
  7. Surely, if a paper has an embed on the ground and another paper has no-one there, that is not necessarily the exclusive that you are trying to imply?
    Not every paper/media organisation has someone on the ground in every location.
    The Telegraph isn’t always the paper that covers ops, in fact there’s been quite a spread across the board with everyone from the Times to The Grauniad (with some fantastic articles I may hasten to add).

    We all know that the MoD is not the most efficient when it comes to getting the stories out quickly, Reuters they certainly aren’t! If in this case a reporter on the ground is allowed to get his story out quickly surely that's just tough on the other papers and in the spirit of things?

    My 10 pence worth anyway, the article above seems like it’s implying yet another conspiracy. So with that in mind I will now wrap myself in tin foil and hide back under the stairs.
  8. I think I'm using up half the national quota of tin foil, so I wouldn't worry about that. I would not use the word "consipracy" here though - more of a naff media strategy.

    Trust me on this ... I may not be the military genius that I think I am (as many people have pointed out, although I can't imagine why) but there is an important issue at stake here.

    The military quite rightly complains about being under-appreciated and about us gobshite civilians not understanding what they have to go through, but part of this is down to the way ops are reported.

    If you want to engage people in an issue, there has to be a sense of a narrative, an underlying theme (or themes). This is why soap operas as a genre are so enduringly successful.

    By farming out different stories to different media outlets, however, the coverage of operations becomes disjointed and then lacks that essential narrative. Readers see occasional, disjointed reports with no apparent continuity or linkage between them, and thus come away with an incoherent image of what is going on. That gets translated into the view that there is no strategic direction, and undermines confidence in the conduct of the war.

    Compare and contrast with the coverage of the Falklands where, accurate or not, the media did convey a sense of narrative, which had people gripped with the drama.

    Asymmetric warfare is more difficult to report in this way, but nonetheless there is an underlying theme and direction to British strategy in Afghanistan, which is simply not coming over in the media - one which is undoubtedly more successful than is generally appreciated.

    The MoD itself could partially compensate for the lack of narrative in the media by telling the story on its own website, but again the coverage is sporadic and disjointed.

    Thus, in my view, the underlying strategy is wrong and this incident is an example of it (a symptom if you like).
  9. Embeds aren't the issue - the issue comes with telephone calls between Whitehall and the "chosen few" Editors and Journalists, who it seems are often only too happy to trot out HMG's line. But then, they would, wouldn't they? As they have an exclusive story. Not that this should surprise anyone, as the MOD don't hold the sole rights to this kind of message delivery - open government anyone?
  10. As it happens, that's pretty much what did happen in WWII. However, you're missing the point, the commodity isn't of a financial nature but an informational nature.
    Incidentally it was the Government's own clandestine newspaper for German troops that got the D-Day scoop. This one:
  11. I don't know what the issue is here. The Forces have never had so much Press and Media coverage as they have in the last five years. Funny thing though Forces publicity follows a standard pattern, Paras in first wave loads in the papers, RM next and a few more, line regiments next and it starts to diminish. By the second Para deployment it's old hat and the civvies thought they had been there all the time. Such is life.
  12. @ Western.

    To be honest I think that aspect is down to the media as a whole rather than just the way the MoD publicises it, no matter how good the regiment the press love the anything different... i.e. Para/RM etc as opposed to the line regiments.

    Sad, but probably quite true. Not good in some ways as they are responsible for the way the public perceive the forces and the current situations. Noted recently when I tried to have a discussion about Iraq with a colleague and she refused point blank to believe anything other than the media "line" at the time.

    Ooh another conspiracy! Runs off donning tin foil hat (again).
  13. Yes but ... the MoD has a web site and huge resources - and there are 25 million people in the UK who have access to the internet.

    Also, in the US, much of the favourable publicity (and a huge amount of information) has come through milbloggers, Michael Yon being but one of them. Yet I do not know of any prominent (or any) British milblogger.

    By developing its own website - improving the flow and quantity of information - and by encouraging serving military personnel to blog, the MoD could by-pass the media and bring its message directly to a much larger number of people.

    Furthermore, while we tend to think of the media in terms of the national press and the broadcast channels, the local and regional press has a cumulative readership in excess of the national media. Servicing these, however, is difficult and expensive by conventional means but putting good material on the website makes it available as a resource, which local media can "lift".

    On top of that, the general reach of blogs is increasing, and the blogs likewise can and will pick up material and use it, if it is there to have.

    The net effect of that, as we have seen in the States, might be that the MSM then picks up stories which is might not otherwise have picked up, simply because it does not want to be left out, or has been shamed into covering.
  14. One thing that should be amended is crown copyright so that good visuals generated by the MoD/Government, be they still photographs, video footage, etc., could be published easier and wider and without the red tape.
  15. The telegraph are giving the Govt a hammering about funding the forces so I'm happy that they are getting the best stories.