Wednesday, March 01, 2006

It was?

Just watch the video of the February 22, 2006, White House press briefing and look for the nanosecond's worth of twinkle in Scott McClellan's eyes as he answers a question about the Dubai Ports World deal. It happens when he tells the press gaggle and, by extension, the US media, "Hey, you fucked up. You weren't paying attention."
Last year -- I think in any given year, there's some 50 to 300 transactions that go through this national security review process. And this process is designed with one thing in mind: to make sure that there are no national security concerns. Last year, there were some 65 transactions that went through this process. This was a matter that was reported in the press going back to, I think, late October. The financial press was covering this possible transaction….
But is this really a fair claim?

There was coverage of the bidding war for P&O. The English-language coverage was overwhelmingly in the British media and in some online industry sites. Maybe we all should add Transport Intelligence Online, Channel NewsAsia, and World Cargo News to our daily reading.

An advanced Google News search for P&O + Dubai + ports + bid location:USA reveals some astonishingly skimpy coverage in the American media, even in the financial press. And that surprisingly skimpy coverage about the potential sale of P&O to DPW featured even skimpier coverage of exactly what DPW would be getting if the deal went through, particularly a significant presence in major American ports.

It seems that the American financial press was disinclined to go into much detail about the possible deal -- why generate public interest and risk derailing a multi-billion dollar transaction? And nobody else in the American media seemed interested in following up on the Reuters, BBC, and Forbes stories about something called P&O and something called DPW.

So you can understand the twinkle in McClellan's eyes. A whole lot of people weren't paying attention.

UPDATE Sorry. Link rot has set in on the link for the AP story cited below. Instead, check out this IndyMedia piece on the ports deal.

UPDATE Here's an example of the kind of hide-in-plain-sight reporting on DPW's pursuit of P&O. This is from the Associated Press. The article ran in the February 10, 2006, edition of the San Diego Transcript.

Note that the story contains absolutely no mention of American ports. There is simply no discussion of the fact that DPW's buyout of P&O would transfer the British company's American port operations to the Dubai-owned company. Curious, isn't it. But what we do get is fluff about P&O's Victorian-era business. This Victoriana padding typifies the pre-furor coverage in both the business and the general media.

As I said, it appears that a good portion of the media were "disinclined" to identify the number and names of American ports involved in the potential DPW deal. The presentation of the buyout in the American media, what little there was, was carefully crafted.


Well, the Washington Post seems to feel that the pre-February 2006 media coverage was limited to industry sites.
It was on Feb. 13 that the Dubai Ports World deal -- after simmering unnoticed for months in the federal bureaucracy and the transportation trade press -- started to boil, as a result of Savage's blustery on-air alarms and an event by Schumer at the New York harbor with families who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001.
Of course, the WaPo reporters are conveniently ignoring the fact that there was widespread coverage of the pending sale in British mainstream media.

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