I was very pleased when Richard Sambrook contacted B-BBC, ostensibly to put the record straight about why he had spoken to the Common Purpose group. My recollection of him – mainly from when he was head of newsgathering at the BBC back in the 1990s – was that he was a pleasant, congenial man, and I thought he had been in touch because he thought my concerns about CP at the BBC were overblown.

Having dug a little, I am not so sure. Mr Sambrook was at the BBC for 30 years and he rose to become head of news, the most senior post in the news division, before blotting his copybook over the Andrew Gilligan claims about the Iraq war and the ensuing battle with Alastair Campbell and NuLabour. Soon after Greg Dyke (the most unplesant man in television I ever had dealings with) left the corporation following the Hutton inquiry, Richard was quietly moved into a different job as head of “global news”, which in practice meant that he had been demoted and – in BBC terms – exiled to the chilly corridors of the World Service. A bit like going to Siberia. However, he remained part of the Byfield-Thompson axis, and may thus be seen as one of the most pivotal figures in BBC news over a generation.

He left the corporation after 30 years about a year ago to join the London office of an outfit called Edelman, which boasts that it is the world’s largest indepedent PR company, with 3,300 employees and no less than 54 offices worldwide. His role is Global Vice Chairman and Chief Content Officer and with such a lord-high-everything name, no doubt has important influence there. So far so good, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with PR (though some may disagree).

However, when I probed Edelman further, I began to smell a rat. In fact several. First, one of the most prominent boasts on Edeleman’s flash website is of working on this campaign:

Create standout for PUMA’s African Unity Kit and its role in supporting UNEPs International Year of Biodiversity project ‘Play For Life’ campaign in the build up to the World Cup in South Africa 2010

So Edelman are prominently part of the UN-biodiversity gravy train. Admittedly, that’s only one account of many they boast about, but I dug deeper. What I then found was this document, which, masquerading under a jargon title of “public engagement”, is actually a manual (scroll down to page 10 onwards) that could be taken straight from the Common Purpose or UN charter about “sustainability”, the code-word for greenie activism. The I found Edelman had been hired by energy company E.On at the time of the Kingsnorth power station protests. To cut a long story short, E.On has since become one of the world cheerleaders about AGW (presumably in reality because it is after the jampot of renewable energy subsidies) but under the cloak of Edelman’s crafty creed of “social responsibility” and and saving the world. Edelman has also been plugging for years press releases based on surveys it has commissioned that purport to show that business leaders round the world also support urgent action on sustainability and climate change.

So to sum up. Richard Sambrook, who professes that he is not really involved in Common Purpose, now works for an outfit that through its 54 branches worldwide seems to be a cheerleader for action on the green creed. That activism is cloaked in mealy-mouthed jargon PR words, but that’s what is involved. Mr Sambrook also – having worked for the BBC for 30 years as a key figure in news – must share responsibility for the fact that the BBC, too, is a virtually unqualified supporter of that same green creed. Common Purpose, as far as I can see, is simply another arm of that religion and that activism. My jury is out about how sinister or effective it is as an organisation, but that’s not the point.

All of this may be circumstantial, but my conclusion is that this is evidence that Mr Sambrook is an influential figure who is an integral part of the process of thoughtspeak that has now infected almost every facet of corporate and media communications. The only way these connections come to light is through sustained digging. What else is there?

Update: There’s far more than I first found in Edelman’s links with AGW, to the point that advocacy is clearly a speciality. Could Mr Sambrook’s BBC credentials on climate change be partly why he was hired? Here, they are handling a major Europe-wide initiative with the British Council to brainwash youngsters; and here, they are urging – at the behest of the fanatics at WWF – the whole of Hong Kong to switch out the lights in pursuit of their goals.

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21 Responses to RICHARD SAMBROOK

  1. David Jones says:

    Am I pleased you didn’t give up on this site!.

    I expect Sambrook wishes he had kept his mouth shut.


  2. David Jones says:

    I see Edelman’s Trust Barometer (scroll down) has the headline “But Always Listen to Auntie!”. I’m not sure what the graph represents as it has no title but it has BBC on 72% and Sky News on 12%. Clearly Sky News is a monopoly threat.


    The page above says that NGOs lead institutional trust.


    I wonder how the questions were phrased and who answered the survey to get these results.


    I’d trust Sky News’ Randall over Peston any day.


    Another startling fact is that UK support for EU membership is 72%. What? This site has many polls disputing this. Indeed one from the bBC in March 2009 says that 55% of Britons want to leave the EU.


    Do you trust Edelman’s Trust Barometer? Looks dodgy to me. Sambrook will feel totally at home.



    • Guest Who says:

      “But Always Listen to Auntie!”

      Oh, larks. All it needs is to add the subhead ‘… the most impartial news outfit there is (‘cos they say so)’

      Would look good in German in an arch over the entrance to Broadcasting House. Or on the Licence Fee demand envelope. Or any Labour//Charity/Quango/NGO  letterheading that pops in the ‘news’room fax machine.

      Mind you, the word ‘Trust’ has rather lost credibility when it comes to the BBC with most, so using it seems a quaint in association.

      I hadn’t hard of Mr. Sambrook until his rather carefully, if poorly-worded response (not quite a level of expertise one might expect from a pro PR outfit) weasel.

      At least he has a fair few to keep him company as they excavate to China.


  3. Backwoodsman says:

    The whole point of PR companies’ hiring these chancers, is to enable them to use their old boy network contacts to influence public debate.
    That is before you even get to their Common Purpose agenda.
    If they want to continue to work in broadcasting / pr / the media , when they retire from the bbc, they should immediately forfeit any bbc pension entitlement.


    • Guest Who says:

      One is sure that all leaving and remaining behind are scrupulous in their respective professionalism in dealing with each other. And companies hire only on levels of skill.

      Google, for instance, had nothing in mind when hiring Newsnight’s editor to get their positive stories out and ensure anything negative was treated by such news-gathering organisations with only the fairest rigour one could hope.

      Market rate talent leads to public sector pensions and private sector remuneration. Unique.

      Nothing to see here… move along.


    • Techno Mystic says:

      I’ve heard that more people work in PR feeding stories to journalists than there are actually journalists.

      The money is much better in PR so they move into it as soon as they can.


  4. Jaded says:

    I used to follow Mr Sambrook’s blog until the piety of it all became too much.


  5. stopcp says:

    I am delighted to see that the message about Common Purpose is beginning to get through.

    All the best for 2011. Especially to the people who write for B-BBC and keep us informed about the British Bullshine Company.



    • Cassandra King says:

      Please keep us updated on a regular basis with info you think may be helpful.

      Best of luck for 2011.


  6. Cassandra King says:

    A PR outfit that values existing networks among the powerful and influential is nothing new but it seems that this particular outfit is rather keen on the public purse for its profit sheet?

    As we see the BBC news output sink to grotesque levels of bias and manipulation it seems as if a set narrative is being pimped with huge and ever growing amounts of news airbrushed from its news product. It isnt really a stretch to believe that ex beeboids and current staff are working closely with the growing spiders web of CP to produce a specific news narrative that aids the network and also keeps it off the news radar.

    One thing is certain, Mr Sambrook is more deeply involved with CP than he lets on.


    • Millie Tant says:

      I had to laugh at The Times headline:

       “Business Big Shot…”

      and the opening line of the article:
       He was thirty years at the BBC, but in May Richard Sambrook will start a new life spinning for Edelman… They weren’t holding back there!  Still having reached the dizzy heights of head of Beeboid News means not just that one was a big shot, but Head of News Bias.  I don’t think that means being obliged to post on a blog in a distinctly lofty manner: “I have to say…”.   Spin all you like, Big Shot, but the fact is you didn’t have to say. Robin is far too kind. 


  7. dave s says:

    I caught a bit of a R4 programme this morning on a new UN NGO to “empower women” They only want around 400million and the interviewer and those being interviewed seemed to think that was not enough and were asking our government spokesman for more. This is how it all goes. NGOs, PR outfits, state bureaucracies. international ditto. All wanting the wicked West to provide- that is us ordinary saps- .
    I can’t see the hardline ME states giving much to this new NGO.
    CP is in the middle of this unholy web of grasping spiders.
    All with the best of intentions of course and carrying on the interrupted work of the blessed Lenin.
    Sometimes I really hope for a total economic meltdown. The trouble is us peasants will suffer while our would be masters just carry on with champagne and caviar.


    • DP111 says:

      Sometimes I really hope for a total economic meltdown.

      Not just an economic collapse, but a revolution that sees the peasantry chasing the ruling class looters down the street to deal out summary justice.

      Lets hope for a better decade.


  8. barrenga says:

    I thought he had been in touch because he thought my concerns about CP at the BBC were overblown.’

    No, he got in touch, to point out a factual inaccuracy that you had published about him. It’s a shame that didn’t give you pause.

    ‘My jury is out about how sinister or effective it is as an organisation, but that’s not the point. ‘

    No, it doesn’t matter if it’s actually sinister or not, just throw about those unfounded accusations anyway. As a neutral observer, it’s clear this is a lot of conspiracy nonsense.


    • Cassandra King says:

      Just what is this “factual innacuracy”? and what are these “unfounded accustaions” of which you speak Barrenga?

      Its all very well making these statements but if you fail to back up these up with actual facts then what are we to make of your post?
      If you have something of interest to say and if you have information that will clear your comrade then fire away, we are all ears.


      • Millie Tant says:

        Just wondering the same thing. I hate when people post such cryptic comments.


      • Guest Who says:

        ‘..if you fail to back up these up with actual facts then what are we to make of your post? ‘

        That s/he is yet another fully paid-up member of the BBC hole digging collective, operating on the odd bubble belief that if you say something ‘is’ or ‘isn’t’, based on no more than hive belief, then all will conform.

        It’s also funny how ‘they’ are incapable of resisting a rather silly tribal collective dig to play to ‘their’ blinkered glee club of some weird, indefinable, genetically impartial ‘us’ in the gallery. 

        Sadly, when exposed to those with slightly more inquiring minds and keen on tangible substance over pure spin, it tends only to make what was already dire even worse. Especially when such critiques are so rare relative (on a BBC ‘split’ basis of about 500:1 – one wishes the £3.6B BBC could come close to the factual accuracy levels of this niche, unfunded site. Never mind Aunty’s obscene institutional agenda in enhancing the narrative and/or interpreting events) to the vast amounts of pure, livid bias that such commenters remain mute upon. And, as is the case here, completely picking the wrong subject to get on a high horse over when they do get tempted from the bunker and above the parapet to be immediately nailed.

        So… keep up the bad work, dude!


    • Cassandra King says:

      Oooh and BTW, how do we know you are a neutral observer if you have already decided that our concerns are simply nonsense? That does not sound neutral to me.


  9. Natsman says:

    Methinks that barrenga doth protest too much…


  10. Techno Mystic says:

    Slightly off-topic, but I was idly researching Julia Middleton today when I discovered that she was a former editor of Marxism Today.  You must hang around in anti-capitalist circles to secure a job like that surely.

    But at some point she seems to have undergone a Damascene conversion.  This is from Director magazine:

    “There is nothing wrong with being motivated by money in society (quite the opposite), but it’s his use of the word “primarily” that’s the problem for me. I think it belittles enterprise. I have long understood the role of enterprise to be wealth creation and the delivery of goods and services that society needs. Only with the energy of people motivated by money and creating value do enterprises emerge and thrive. Societies thrive along with them. Enterprises create jobs and raise standards of living. This is a fine objective for enterprise, one that puts it at the heart of society.”

    This kind of sudden conversion is not unusual in Marxists – see Claire Fox , Mick Hume and the “Insitute of Ideas” (formerly Living Marxism).

    But are these new sentiments sincere?


    • Millie Tant says:

      Well, well, Marxism Today!

      It wasn’t hard to convert all those Labour lefties / socialists to the joys of the gravy train once they got half a chance to get their paws on whatever was going: limousines, two Jags, two homes, grace-and-favour grand houses, expenses scams and all.