Kirsty Lang

December 3, 2007

Editorial Intelligence’s Kirsty Lang Graduated from City University, London, with a PG Dip — which sounds rather like a tea bag — in Periodical Journalism in 1985. The University boasts that it has one of the ‘foremost Journalism departments in the UK’, with famous graduates such as Lang and the BBC Presenter Dermot Murnaghan. The newly appointed Head of Department is Adrian Monck, a former Executive Producer of Sky News —a programme aimed not just at invertebrates. [1]

In the Evening Standard, 21 August, 2001 Lang made the following observations about the media:

“As to whether news is ‘Manufactured’ or made up for the titillation of the consumer: let’s look at some of the stories dominating our headlines this August. The Hamiltons; British troops in Macedonia; the missing 15-year-old Danielle Jones; four hospital deaths caused by blocked oxygen tubes; a possible cure for CJD. Of all these stories, only the Hamiltons could possibly be ‘Manufactured’ — with the help of a PR agent. It’s true that PR agents and government spin doctors are becoming more and more sophisticated at manipulating the media, but, equally, journalists and the public are becoming more cynical about what is put in front of them.[2]

Ignoring that tales of horror, death, war and so on have merged with forms of entertainment for the ‘cynical’ and jaded palette of the people who create news programmes, and that the MOD news-manage to an extraordinary extent, she makes a good point. But how are PR agents and government spin doctors becoming more and more sophisticated at manipulating the media —who is teaching them the tricks of the trade?

Just before we go on — should you want to book Kirsty to say things like this in a newscastery tone, Lang is handled by Knight Ayton Management who have been representing news and current affairs presenters for the past 20 years. They also have Fiona Armstrong, Zeinab Badawi, Rosie Boycott, Fiona Bruce, Michael Buerk, John Kampfner, Martin Lewis, Donald MacCormick, Trevor McDonald, Tim Sebastian, Peter Sissons, Jon Snow, Moira Stuart and many other z-list ‘celebrites’

If you don’t want to hire a celeb they also do media training via their associate company Group K Broadcasting Ltd. Here the pitch is to companies which they automatically assume are in a bit of trouble:

“Chances are that neither you nor your colleagues would be really comfortable with a tough television or radio interview… All it takes is a day of your time, discovering the “tricks of the trade” and how you can master them.”

Their Managing Director and Media Training Course Director is Allan King a main Presenter, or Anchor as the Americans say, with Sky News for the last ten years. Tim Sebastian also runs a similar course with Knight Ayton, here:

“Tim carries out a number of private engagements enabling organisations the opportunity [sic] to personally experience his journalistic hard talking skills. He is specialised in interviewing high-level company personnel in front of clients or for internal boards of management, posing the kinds of penetrating questions that only an experienced outsider can do.”

The first Group K Broadcasting testimonial from a happy customer is by way of a “personal thank you” from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), from the Strategy and Training Section of their Public Diplomacy Department, which gushes forth:

:”Brilliant, Really useful helps & tips for presenting oneself (and UK policy) professionally. Excellent session one of the best I’ve attended at the FCO… A real professional keen to share his knowledge.” [3]

A second testimonial from the same source states: “By far the highlight of the last two years was the two days training which you gave to Sir David Hannay, our Ambassador to the UN, the results of which are clear for all to see.”

Yes —a war in Iraq. More on Public Diplomacy later, as they say on TV.


Lang began her journalism career as a BBC news trainee in 1986 on programmes such as ”Today” and the ”World at One”. From 1989 to 1991 she was the Central European reporter for the BBC World Service based in Budapest, covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Balkans conflict. She went on to be the BBC’s Paris correspondent for both television and radio and The Sunday Times. After a period reporting for BBC 2’s Newsnight she joined Channel 4 in 1998 and then Radio 4’s dull arts programme Front Row in 2004.

Sorry… I know commercials are annoying but actually, if you are serious about trying to book her for a Corporate or awards ceremony you would be better going through JLA’s website, she’s also on their books. JLA do you a whole package and are providers of “business and keynote speakers, motivational speakers, after dinner speakers, conference presenters and facilitators, awards hosts and entertainers for corporate and industry events.”[4]

Its a boom time for this sort of thing: “JLA will source experts to meet all business needs eg. Leadership, Entrepreneurialism, Executing change, Tapping new markets and Culture change.”

Their motivational speakers go from the dizzy heights of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong down to the woeful lows of Alastair Campbell and Heather Mills-McCartney. Their website is fantastic, I’ve put in some links below, with the price of the celebrities tagged alongside them like items in a shop —but it is not cheap: Buzz and Neil are £25k (although Heather will do it for £10k to £25k, well probably not now that she has made millions off of Sir Paul but you never know).

Where where we — of course: journalists, politicians and show business are separate. Gravitas-laden Statesmen can’t be bought with mere filthy lucre: but this isn’t their day job, in this context they are ‘after dinner speakers.’ Here JLA’s list includes: Rt Hon David Blunkett MP (£5 to £10k), Gyles Brandreth (£2.5k to £5k), Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP (£5k to £10k), Rt Hon William Hague MP (£10k to £25k), Christine Hamilton (£2.5k to £5k), Boris Johnson MP (£5k to £10k), Rt Hon David Mellor QC (was £2.5k to £5k but has dropped off their books), Michael Portillo (£5k to £10k), Rt Hon Lord Chris Smith (£2.5k to £5k), Tim Yeo MP (£2.5k to £5k). On and on the list goes — this group are presented together with a bunch of criminals, dope fiends, jokers, sex pests and the like (and Alastair Campbell who was £10k to £25k but has gone up to over £25k). John Humphrys‘ little photograph has the curious caveat ‘Q&A only’ — nothing kinky you understand —and is in two different price brackets.

Kirsty Lang was a snip at £1k to £2.5k but went up to £2.5k to £5k—the client can probably haggle.

The international affairs section has Jacques Attali, Mikhail Gorbachev (in the same price bracket as Lulu), Sir Christopher Meyer KCMG (£5k to £10k — Johnny Vegas costs more and is arguably more diplomatic), Joschka Fischer, John Major was on it (and will probably be back now that the Carlyle Group are faultering) and for the same money you could have got Rory Bremner) and Lord George Robertson “the most powerful Scotsman in the World”.

Lang is in good company: John Simpson (was £5k to £10k but now retails at £10k to £25k), Andrew Neil (£5k to £10k) and Andrew Marr (who asks £10k to £25k) and many more. It is awesome the money to be made here, take Boris Johnson for instance: one month alone and he makes about £100,000 according to They Work For You. And JLA is just one of the booking agencies he uses.

Or look at George Galloway, according to Jeremy Lee, managing director of JLA: “Galloway’s main asset is his achievement in breaking through the “recognition barrier” in America. He believes he could fulfil 20 paid-for engagements in a fortnight.”  That’s estimated at between £14,000 to £16,000 per engagement — the sky’s the limit.

Sieg Heiling the Dictatorship of the Market

Of course Kirsty is above all this show biz whoredom — she gives talk at more refined venues untainted by the whiff of filthy lucre such as of the 2004 RSA Morgan Stanley Lecture on ‘Britishness’ along with Tom Bentley (who used to be the director of Demos), Sukhvinder Stubbs (Trustee of Demos), [[Nick Pettigrew]] (Associate Director at MORI), Professor Kenneth Minogue (Chairman of the Bruges Group, director of the Centre for Policy Studies and a trustee of Civitas who shared an office with Demos) and Paul Crake (ex-Communication Director of the Design Council who fund Demos and are part of the UK’s Public Diplomacy efforts). Here think tanks dominate the market.

Crake is the director of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce) which has promoted the more refined work of Germaine Greer (yes she’s with JLA £2.5k to £5k) , Sir Bernard Crick, Will Hutton, and Demos’ Geoff Mulgan (yes another JLA client £2.5k to £5k but since he’s into post modernism pay him in Monopoly Money and tell him Baudrilliard said it was just as good as hard cash) and many others.

Kirsty Lang is also the ever so serious presenter of ”The World”, an international current affairs programme broadcast globally on BBC World (with adverts and perhaps soon with adverts for her) and on BBC4 in the UK. Aficionados of the programme celebrate her gaffes — inherent in rolling news shows — claiming that she “completely forgot what programme she was on and clearly struggled to remember what to say at the top of the programme.”

She is often confused with Kirsty Wark. It is arguable that these types of programmes have not recovered from the satire of ”The Day Today”, (Armando Iannucci is £5k to £10k at JLA) and BBC World has been the subject of a few hoaxes in its time, but this is real from Lang:

“Hello George, I’m talking to you from Ground Zero. In fact, just behind me, is where the Twin Towers used to stand, now just a vast empty space and two very large holes.”[5]

Lang is on more comfortable gigs such as Jewish Book Week, sandwiched in between another Public Diplomacy guru, Mark Leonard on Europe and Editorial Intelligence’s John Kampfner on Marx (presumably Karl). We will return to Leonard below, and Kampfner is the object of a separate profile.

Public Diplomacy

Posing hard questions to those who represent the government is just one part of Lang’s job and no doubt an observation of all those training seminars is that if all they do is waffle back —

then that is the time to pounce with the killer follow-up. Here is Kirsty in action ripping into Stuart W. Holliday, Co-ordinator, International Information Programs (IIP), Department of State Foreign Press Center Briefing, Washington DC:

Kirsty Lang from the BBC. In recent weeks we’ve seen increasing evidence of anti-American feeling growing in the world, and I was wondering how you felt the best way was to combat this. And with what messages do you hope to combat that? MR. HOLLIDAY: It is true that we’ve seen evidence of increasing anti-Americanism. I think that there are two broad reasons for this. One is that of course since the end of the Cold War we have obviously developed more independent views of essentially the world order that existed between World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall, that had many associated exchange and interactions between — whether it’s NATO, various non-NATO allies, development programs around the world. I think that we have seen that we — as the media space begins to fill — and it has over the last decade; there has been explosion throughout the world —that the United States, in the humble way that the president has talked about, must be there and must engage, whether it’s education and cultural programs, like the Fulbright and the International Visitor program, or informational programs, like these publications or speakers that we send around the world.”

Her reception of that question — she said nothing —is not exactly Christ denouncing the Pharisees and Sadduces.

The BBC World Service are major recipients of Treasury funding for Public Diplomacy. They argue that the World Service would attend committee meetings as an observer in recognition of its editorial independence. “However, the World Service acknowledges the requirement of the FCO that in the interests of proper accountability for the use of public money, its objectives are pursued and monitored in as robust and effective way as possible.” [6]

Most government bodies get their way by citing funding as having a precondition and concomitant obligation towards ‘public accountability’: thereby you must fulfil the remit that the funding was based on —i.e. push the government line. The Public Diplomacy Board led to a merging of the FCO, think tanks like the Foreign Policy Centre, the BBC and PR companies. Committees and Boards like this are headed by the people in charge of the public purse. A lot of the people on the committee are there to be in receipt of those funds. The FCO trust them because of this cartel of interest, nods and winks and horse trading: its a free country as to what you release to the outside world once you’re in the tent.

Lord Carter of Coles defines Public Diplomacy as: “Work aiming to inform and engage individuals and organisations overseas, in order to improve understanding of and influence for the United Kingdom in a manner consistent with governmental medium and long term goals.”[7]

Britain spends less ($330 million) on international broadcasting than the United States ($540 million), but the BBC World Service has a larger audience than all of the US international radio services combined. [8]

Increasingly we see the content of Public Diplomacy portrayed as news, or news-like information that accentuates propaganda and counter propaganda. Colleen Graffy who memorably stated that three suicides at the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay was a “good PR move to draw attention”, works as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. [9]

And we see the Foreign Policy Centre and Centre for European Reform’s Mark Leonard inveighing in here with the FPC’s BRITAIN MUST FUND “STRATEGY FOR HEARTS AND MINDS” IN MIDDLE EAST. [10] The terminology ‘Hearts & Minds’ is carelessly drawn from the American Army’s insane PR in Veitnam. His targets are people too, just like the military, and he argues that the British Council should have direct contact with one in twenty people in the Arab and Muslim world, and for the BBC World Service to reach millions through its Arab language TV news channel. To avoid the inevitable accusations of “imperialism”, all assistance ‘should be based on the UN’s human development agenda’. Avoidance is evasion here: evasion of the contribution to the brutality of the UK’s foreign policy in the middle-east. [11]

This work cites the Connecting Futures Survey part of which involved Lord Stevenson of the British Council which argued its independence from the FCO and MI6.

Before he became Lord Kerr and moved onto Shell and Rio Tinto, Sir John Kerr (permenant Under-secretary of State FCO and head of the Diplomatic Service 1997-2002) and member of the British Council, was asked of this independence in a Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, and let something slip despite being given as easy ride:

“The MI6, I understand, is deemed to be part of the Foreign Office. I realise the relationship is blurred. I wondered as this is a report to Parliament whether or not there could or should be reference to this.

(Sir John Kerr) I do not recognise a blur, Mr Mackinlay, I recognise only a clear division between the money that we are accounting for here, […], and the Single Intelligence Vote which is a completely different sum of money accounted for in a completely different way. So what I am giving evidence on is the use of the Diplomatic Vote by the Foreign Office, the Council, the World Service and we should not forget BTI. I am not responsible for the Intelligence Vote.

You are not responsible but do you have a stewardship of it in any way?

(Sir John Kerr) No, I do not.

I see. So can you just clarify the inter-relationship? To what extent is MI6 Foreign Office?

(Sir John Kerr) In terms of the Diplomatic Vote there is a complete cut off between the Diplomatic Service and the Home Civil Service on the one hand, and the Secret Intelligence Service on the other. I am not their Accounting Officer, I am not responsible for them.

Okay, wrong forum, eh?

(Sir John Kerr) The division has got even clearer than it used to be because we have agreed with those in the Secret Intelligence Service a full cost charging system for cases where they use our services and vice versa.” [emphasis added] [12]

The typically establishment pretence of separation seemed to have slipped at the end there. So there is no connection except when SIS use British Council services and ‘vice versa’.

Polls show that Britain’s reputation in the Middle East has declined because of its foreign policy. In the British Council’s Connecting Futures Survey, when respondents — a lot of whom were poor children who were bribed with toys which is a disgrace to any supposedly scientific survey—were asked to name the negative aspects of the UK, 37% named its political stance. The closeness of the UK to the US was the most frequently cited factor in its falling standing.

The Foreign Policy Centre, British Trade International, British Council, The BBC World Service, FCO and the Secret Intelligence Service collide under the pressures of presenting a facade for the grim meat hook reality of the UK’s foreign policy. [13] Zeinab Badawi , Mark Leonard , Sir Michael Jay (Permanent Under-Secretary FCO) and David Green (British Council Director General) are members of the Public Diplomacy Strategy Board (an FCO committee).

But back to Kirsty Lang: what for instance was the Public Diplomacy of this question just after the bombings of the twin towers?

“Kirsty Lang: Our next question is from Kofi in Ghana: Do you find it tragic that some very intelligent people, especially those in the Muslim world, still want to rationalize the attacks on New York City in the name of fighting for Palestine?”[14]

The format of that question relies on a misplaced trust of Lang and the BBC — it is as if the question had been randomly plucked out of some garden fete tombola by Joyce Grenfell circa 1958. Not with Zenab Badawi and all those FCO guys on the Public Diplomacy Board. [15] The format of this question is comparable in formal structure to —”Do you think all black people should be shot or hung?”

Badawi is also an adviser to the Foreign Policy Centre and the new presenter of The World on BBC Four, the UK’s first daily news bulletin devoted principally to international news, she is also handled by Knight Ayton Management, who as we have seen work for the Public Diplomacy Board in answering those hard questions posed by Badawi and Lang. ‘Small World’ might be a better title for the programme. [16]

Model Management

Back to the serious stuff: Lang gets quoted in the ”Washington Post” —this is a serious journalist not some establishment glove puppet:

“It’s much easier to take the language that’s given to you, and the government knows that full well. So if you keep saying ‘coalition forces,’ ‘coalition forces,’ people will use it. I think people do need to be more careful. They do take phrases willy-nilly from the government without thinking, without seriously analysing what they say.” [17]

Hold on, if you’re serious about booking her, Lang is also with CMM (Celebrity Model Management) they say they are ‘The UK Public Relations & Advertising Industry’s Preferred Celebrity Booking Agency & Keynote Speaker Bureau’ so best go with them, JLA look a bit pricey and these people are a tad more downmarket. [18]

Say you’re an Union Carbide executive and your Napalm factory’s just (accidentally) wiped out the local population —the CMM will help you out with:

*Raising brand or campaign awareness.

*Raising a brands profile and media coverage.

*Attracting new audiences.

*Demystifying key messages and issues.

*Mobilising public opinion and involvement.

*Contributing to brand repositioning in the public perception.

*Reinvigorating a long running campaign.

They also do a nice line in “glamorous girls,” who “may be available from CMM for your celebrity driven activity or photo-call.” They can provide Joanne Guest, posh Liz Hurley, Jordan —of course, Keira Knightley, Jodie Marsh, Dannii Minogue, Carole Smilie, Abi Titmuss or Tara Palmer Tomkinson or loads more. Although there does not seem to be, how can we put it ‘call girls’ as such, but they do a fine line in ‘Political Speakers’ , some of whom may offer advice on the perils of that sort of thing.

The real beauty of all this is that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. In these troubled times busy executives need advice and relief on all manner of things from the horse’s mouth (but some sort of pattern is discernable possibly related to CMM’s other line of business). As a big company boss you might end up in jail, so CMM can get you: Jonathan Aitken ; you might have shagged your job away, well CMM can get you: Rt Hon David Blunket (his biog is missing); you might have ended up annoying an entire country, big deal, CMM can get you: Derek Hatton ; you might have shagged your job away again, no worries, CMM can get you: David Mellor ; you might have ended up too drunk to shag your job away but lost it anyway: well my man CMM can get you: Charles Kennedy ; you might have nearly shagged your job away but got away with it, well CMM can get you John Prescott; you might have nearly shagged John Major’s job away and would like to hire Edwina Curry CMM are on it; you might have become a bye-word for this process of ‘job-loss-shag’: yes Sir CMM can deploy Paddy Ashdown into your trouble spot; or you might have ended up pissing away millions if not billions of other people’s money with no actual excuse, fear not rogue trader, CMM can get you: Lord Norman Lamont.

Stars of stage screen and TV have to be careful — they might end up inadvertantly doing an ad for something and not get paid. Opportunities must be converted into profitable opportunities and that means someone pays for your time and that means you work for someone. Do you think racing drivers dress in overalls like that to look like rich punk rockers? Until the Morecambe and Wise show the actors who presented news programmes were accorded a totally unwarranted kudos —the days of waiving a fee or Reithian values are struggling. Yet somehow the BBC asked Kirsty Lang to step down from Editorial Intelligence because she was making outside money. Who isn’t?


One Response to “Kirsty Lang”

  1. sinc Says:

    Kirsty Lang was used in the broadcast of a ‘simulated terror attack (on TV in March 2004 – ‘Panorama’s London Under Attack ‘) & also on 7th July 2005.

    More here…

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