Tele-Press Associates: Flacking for Whalers for 21 Years

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This article was first published as "Tele-Press Associates: Flacking for Whalers for 21 Years", PR Watch, Volume 8, No. 1, First Quarter 2001. The original article was authored by Bob Burton and is used here with permission. As with all SourceWatch articles, feel free to edit and revise.

Alan Macnow, president of the New York-based Tele-Press Associates (TPA), has been defending the Japanese whaling and fishing industry for 21 years. A former stringer for Time-Life in Korea, Macnow founded TPA in 1959. The current O'Dwyer's Directory of Public Relations Executives says Macnow was a PR writer for the American Heritage Foundation prior to starting his own public relations company.

Reports filed by TPA with the U.S. Department of Justice, as required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, reveal that in the 18 months prior to mid-June 1999, TPA earned more than $180,000 for advising and representing the Japanese Whaling Association (JWA) in the United States. For the two years prior to mid-1999, TPA also earned more than $220,500 representing the Japan Fisheries Association (JFA), of which the JWA is a member organization.

When asked, Macnow is coy about his other clients. "It's confidential," he says before adding, "you can find them in the PR guidebooks if you want." Pressed on why his clients are considered confidential if it is already public, Macnow tartly trotted out a well-practiced argument for secrecy. "I'm not going to provide targets for environmental groups," he said.

O'Dwyer's Directory of Public Relations Firms 2000 reveals that TPA's client list has a strong Japanese flavor. In addition to the JWA and JFA, TPA's clients include the Japan External Trade Organization, the Japan Pearl Exporters Association, the Japan Tuna Association, Nippon Steel Corporation, the Overseas Fishery Cooperative Foundation, the government of St. Lucia, and the South Sea Pearl Consortium. Macnow's son, Devin, who started at TPA in 1987, heads the Cultured Pearl Information Center, the trade association he established for the cultured pearl industry.

TPA also involves itself in advocacy activities in its own right. In 1997, for example, Macnow and TPA signed onto a "environmental manifesto" drafted by Consumer Alert, a corporate front group that has been funded by Monsanto, Philip Morris, and Exxon. Prepared as a response to that year's Earth Day mobilizations, the Consumer Alert manifesto advocated familiar "free market" themes: property rights, small government, deregulation. Other signers included Steven J. Milloy from The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition; James Mitchell from the "wise use" umbrella group Alliance for America; Elizabeth Whelan from the American Council on Science and Health; and Marlo Lewis from the right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Macnow, a seasoned PR hand, knows to schmooze only tame reporters. At the May 1999 IWC meeting in St. Georges, Grenada, journalists were enticed to attend a "International Whaling Commission Conference Media Symposium" with the program sporting the logo of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union. Journalists who attended soon discovered that the symposium was in fact an extended media conference for pro-whaling advocates, including Eugene La Pointe, the president of the International Wildlife Management Consortium, an international organization that supports the resumption of commercial whaling, along with hunting elephants for ivory.

When two journalists, John Maxwell for the Jamaica Sunday Observer and Matthias Peltier, a stringer for British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), began asking pointed questions, the mood turned sour. Maxwell reported in his subsequent column that at the coffee break Macnow arrived and pointing to Peltier, said, "I want this man out of this room." Macnow refused to accept Peltier's BBC credentials and insisted he be ejected on the grounds that he was not a journalist but a "frontman" for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, an anti-whaling group.

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