Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office



  1.  The role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and diplomatic missions abroad in the provision of information and promotion of tourism in response to the current outbreak of FMD; an overview of activity overseas and at home; and ideas to develop our post-FMD recovery strategy.


  2.  Since the outbreak of FMD earlier this year the FCO has been engaged in an intensive public diplomacy campaign to promote the message that Britain is open for business and to correct misunderstandings about FMD. The FCO and diplomatic missions overseas have been working closely on this campaign with other Government Departments, the British Tourist Authority, the British Council, British Trade International and the travel industry.


  3.  Posts have calibrated their public diplomacy strategies to take account of local circumstances. In North America, for example, where the impact on tourism has been severe, partly due to the many factual misunderstandings about FMD:

    —  the Ambassador has appeared regularly on the national television channels;

    —  every Consul General is giving interviews to local TV and radio broadcasters and targeting key multipliers;

    —  all of the Press and Public Affairs network is working energetically with the BTA, representatives of the British tourist industry and other promotional agencies to counter the adverse publicity; and

    —  recent high level visitors, including Ms Janet Anderson, the Minister for Tourism, Mr Henry McLeish, Scottish First Minister and a senior CBI delegation have reinforced the message, through interviews and meetings with the travel trade.

  4.  Elsewhere, for example, in the developing world a more low-key approach has been appropriate. Visitors from the developing world (who make up less than 5 per cent of all tourism to the UK) mainly come here to study or visit relatives in cities. Often these visitors are familiar with FMD from their own countries and know it is not a risk to human health. Posts' strategies in these countries have typically involved placing the latest information on the post website and producing articles for the local press.

  5.  Annex A shows in more detail the action taken by our overseas posts in 22 countries accounting for 88 per cent of our £12.8 billion tourist industry.



  6.  The FCO is playing a full part in the daily cross-Whitehall co-ordination of FMD briefing. We are collaborating closely with other Government Departments and Agencies, especially the DCMS, British Tourist Authority, English Heritage and Historic Houses Association. We have helped develop a No 10/News Co-ordination Centre/DCMS/FCO news grid to work up pro-tourism messages here targeted at the foreign press. There is still much to do, especially in promoting positive messages to the UK-based international media and foreign embassies.

  7.  The work of International Press Section (IPS) in the FCO is an integral part of this strategy. It falls into three main categories:

    —  briefings for London-based correspondents for foreign media organisations, and foreign embassy press attaches;

    —  feature articles and photographs provided through the London Press Service; and

    —  visit programmes for overseas journalists.

  8.  Annex B[16] gives full details of IPS' recent FMD-related activities, which include:

    —  an exclusive briefing by the Prime Minister for CNN/NBC;

    —  US and European correspondents included in a briefing given by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; and

    —  a briefing by the British Tourist Authority and Press Association to foreign correspondents on the extent to which the countryside remains accessible.

  9.  Press attaches in foreign embassies in London are included in these briefings. In addition, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Brian Wilson, invited nine foreign Ambassadors from our key tourism markets to a briefing on 11 April. Countries that provide 69 per cent of the UK's international tourist market were represented. Ms Joyce Quin, Minister of State, MAFF, Mr David Quarmby, Chairman British Tourist Authority, and Mr Fred Landeg, Senior Vet, MAFF joined Mr Wilson in the briefing.

TV and Radio News Feeds and Features

  10.  British Satellite News (BSN), the FCO's dedicated daily TV news service, feeds a 10 minute bulletin Monday to Thursday, and a 20 minute bulletin on Friday, to a global network of TV newsrooms via six satellites. Four hundred and forty five TV stations in 125 countries receive the BSN bulletins. The bulletins are made up of four stories: News/Analysis/Business/Feature. Since the beginning of April BSN has been carrying a daily tourist feature. The editorial team is working closely with the DCMS, the BTA and English Heritage on the choice of stories. For example BSN has sent crews to cover each day of the World Travel Leaders' Summit. They have covered the opening up of key tourist venues such as Stonehenge, Osborne House and Blenheim Palace and on St George's Day plan a special on Stratford-on-Avon. The plan is to continue with tourist features for the next few weeks.

  11.  London Radio Service (LRS), the FCO's radio news service, provides news stories to radio newsrooms around the world. It produces bulletins from Monday to Friday, updated at least three times a day, in English, Russian, Arabic, Latin-American Spanish, Brazilian-Portuguese and French. LRS also produces a version of the English bulletin targeted for the North American market. The bulletins are used by thousands of broadcasters in more than 120 countries.

  12.  LRS coverage of FMD and tourism started on 22 February and has featured some 75 short news stories since then. LRS is increasing the number of positive features about tourism, transport, food and agriculture. This is in addition to the regular coverage which includes technology, health, business, sport and the arts.

  13.  Annex C* gives a breakdown of recent relevant stories on both BSN and LRS.


  14.  In mid-April we started production of our overseas posts of weekly round-ups of positive news stories about the UK. The aim is to provide a succinct overview of developments across all Government Departments, with the latest facts and figures, which should serve as a useful quarry for our Press and Public Affairs Officers overseas.


  15.  Posts' websites are a key source of information for overseas visitors to the UK. FCO and post websites receive over 780,000 page impressions each week. We update the FCO website every day, and help posts update theirs, to ensure that the latest FMD facts and hyperlinks are available. All posts have linked their websites to key sites in the UK, eg No 10, MAFF, Open Britain and DCMS.

Other work to fight FMD and sustain tourism

  16.  With Cabinet Office, we continue to work through EU posts and UKRep Brussels to try to ensure that handling of FMD in the EU provides endorsement for our policies and protects our interests. We got good endorsement for our measures at the Stockholm informal European Council. We are helping to recruit foreign vets and slaughtermen from abroad: 161 foreign vets are in the UK at present. That represents more than a tenth of all vets (1,519) working on FMD. We have also supported MAFF's efforts to secure other help from overseas, eg bolt-guns for humane slaughter.

  17.  We are also working alongside MAFF, DTI and British Trade International to lobby against third country bans on the legitimate export of products which pose no FMD risk and we are helping MOD negotiate terms on which they can continue to exercise and conduct operations overseas in light of concerns, especially in Canada and the US, that they might spread FMD.


  18.  We, DCMS and the BTA agree that success in rebuilding tourism will depend largely on progress in restoring confidence by demonstrating that the relevant authorities have successfully tackled FMD. Once we can convey this message we aim to ratchet up our public diplomacy campaign at home and in key foreign markets. We are discussing the elements of this campaign through the central co-ordination process and are working on a joint tourism promotion strategy.

  19.  Beyond that, we will be reviewing our longer term public diplomacy strategy to ensure that it is fully adapted to requirements post-FMD.

April 2001

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