Client: The British Army
PR team: In-house Mobile News Team
Campaign: Continued support and recognition for British troops deployed
in Bosnia on regional TV
Timescale: 1992 - to date
Budget: pounds 56,000 plus pounds 500,000 capital expenditure on
Recruitment is a big issue in the British Army. With the end of the Cold
War and mass redundancies, it is perceived that military careers are now
uncertain. However, the Army still needs its staff and must challenge
these perceptions. Large-scale military operations such as that in
Bosnia where, since the Dayton Agreement, the Army now has 13,000 troops
deployed, present it with an opportunity to show the value and status of
The Mobile News Team’s role is to acquire TV footage of military
activities and supply the pictures to regional broadcasters back home.
To generate and sustain a high level of public awareness of the role,
abilities and living conditions of British troops in Bosnia via regional
TV. To maintain public support for the Army and boost recruitment in
specific TV regions roughly coinciding with regional recruitment areas.
Supplying quality TV footage, backed by storylines with a UK regional
slant. The stories usually take the form of two to three interviews and
around ten minutes of general views on broadcast standard video tape.
This is backed by background information to two-minute piece for
regional news programme.
The MNT’s TV crew - Major Tim Purbrick and Sergeant Dave Brown - visited
Bosnia nine times in the past 18 months. Highlights included being the
only crew in the world to film a NATO airstrike near Sarajevo, from a
hill 800 yards away; filming a liaison officer in a minefield staring
down the barrels of hostile AK47 rifles, and escaping from another hairy
situation with kit smuggled in one vehicle and crew in another.
When a Metropolitan Police officer in the Territorial Army was called up
to serve at a small operational HQ. The MNT created a piece entitled the
‘The Bill in Bosnia’ which was used by Carlton TV.
The Army estimates that the MNT is responsible for generating over
pounds 2 million of exposure on regional TV since the beginning of
Bosnian deployment, based on equivalent ad costs of pounds 8,000 per
Television journalists have differing views about the usefulness of the
service. Andy Cooper, regional editor of Meridian Tonight, uses MNT
material every few months, while Chris Ware, bi-media editor at BBC
South, says: ‘We virtually never use such footage, although we always
look at what comes in.’ He also sees an ethical issue here. ‘BBC South
is unusual in having its own defence correspondent, yet we sometimes
find that our access to military sites is denied and the only means of
obtaining footage is through a ‘controlled source’ such as the MNT. This
has obvious implications for the independence of war coverage.’
Despite the unwillingness of the BBC to use MNT footage, Tim Purbrick’s
team has achieved considerable coverage on independent TV. The coverage
presents the ‘human’ side of the army and keeps its day-to-day work in
the public eye.
When asked about MNT’s effectiveness, Brigadier Philip Trousdell, PR
director for the British Army, said he was ‘very happy with the team’s
work and looking for additional teams in the future. It communicates
essential messages about the quality and capability of our staff.’