One of the UK’s largest business publishers has launched an investigation after Press Gazette provided it with evidence of commercial influence over supposedly independent awards judging.
Euromoney Institutional Investor also told Press Gazette it is suspending all future scheduled events organised by its Global Telecoms Business division. And it said it is appointing an independent third party to review its awards events.
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The move comes after Press Gazette provided Euromoney with a recording of a phone conversation provided by a whistleblower that suggested commercial considerations influenced the supposedly independent judging process of the Global Telecoms Business (GTB) awards – handed out to some of the UK’s leading telecoms companies in May.
Global Telecoms Business is a magazine published six times a year and also a website targeting leading executives in the telecoms industry.
It is part of Euromoney, which reported revenue of £403m in 2015 and is half-owned by Daily Mail and General Trust.
Press Gazette contacted Global Telecoms Business in August and said we had information from a well-placed source who said the GTB awards winners were influenced by business group manager Paul Collinson and based on commercial considerations rather than an independent panel of experts.
Although Global Telecoms Business does not charge to enter its awards, it does sell tables to the awards dinner and commercial sponsors have the opportunity to speak at the associated Innovation Summit.
Collinson responded by telling Press Gazette: “There is categorically no link between the Global Telecoms Business awards ceremony, its processes and any other part of Euromoney’s Telecoms events business.
“Furthermore entrants to the GTB awards do not pay to speak at any of Euromoney’s other Telecoms events. The assertion that the awards were decided on such considerations is therefore entirely baseless.
“As an event organised by one of the industry’s leading publications, the GTB Summit and Awards inevitably attracts nominations from the industry’s major operators and vendors.
“With such a focus on innovation it is therefore not surprising that leading companies from within the industry would seek to associate themselves through exhibiting or sponsorship at the event.
“The focus of the GTB summit and awards is on celebrating completed projects that are furthering telecoms development. The nomination and judging process is extremely simple.
“Companies are asked to submit their project for consideration. All submissions are sent to an independent advisory panel and the editorial team. This group then submit whether or not it meets the criteria for receiving a project innovation recognition award.
“We do not shortlist companies or charge for these submissions.”
Press Gazette then provided parent company Euromoney with a recording of a telephone conversation between Collinson and a colleague on the organisational team of the GTB Awards.
The conversation took place in open plan office on the afternoon of 6 April 2017.
Press Gazette said in a question to Euromoney: “In the recording Mr Collinson can be heard agreeing the final list of winners and his decision appears to be largely based on those who are ‘speaking’ – ie. involved with TELCAP [the GTB business unit] commercially. He also talks about picking winners based on table revenue and on if they are local and likely to attend (and so buy tables).”
Euromoney responded with the following statement: “As the operator of some of the most highly-regarded and rigorous industry awards around the world, it matters deeply to us that all of our awards programmes are run with integrity. We will never tolerate the blurring of the lines between awards judging and commercial considerations.
“As such we take these allegations about Global Telecoms Business awards extremely seriously. We are immediately commencing an investigation and will suspend all future scheduled events within Global Telecoms Business.
“We are proud of and determined to maintain the high standards we set for our awards programmes and therefore will commission an independent third party to review our awards events to ensure that our high standards continue to be met.”
The GTB Asia Telecoms Innovation Summit and Awards were due to be held in Singapore on 19 September.
GTB has issued a statement saying: “Unfortunately the GTB Asia Telecoms Innovation Summit & Awards which was due to take place on Tuesday 19th September 2017, has now been postponed.”
Excerpts from the recording between GTB’s Paul Collinson and a colleague which prompted Euromoney to suspend its awards activity and launch an investigation:
“MTN Zambia. Okay. Okay.
“Cool, I also think, so the AT&T one is that one from the US? Yeah, AT&T and Colt, I think that one should definitely win, because Colt are a local…
“Corning Optical I think would be a good one, because they’re local, they’re London, it’s with Openreach as well so BT is their chief engineer. Colt and…yeah yeah yeah, okay. So we’ll make two awards.
“We’ve good be careful with Huawei, we don’t want it to turn into a Huawei..you know…there’s a duplication here actually, Dr Kelvin Smith, transmission futures and innovation. I believe they’re the same one. I think one’s got BT, hold off, and the other one has BT. I think that, the first one can definitely win. So let’s do that one.
“Umm, what other ones do you desperately want, which other ones are definitely – GlobeNet needs to obviously win because they’re speaking. So which one? Ericsson? So I’ve got two in here for Ericsson, again looks like dupes, or maybe they’re two different ones. One’s for consumer, one’s for enterprise, do you know which one it is…
“Who else is speaking? Global, yeah definitely, the Rosa one? Yeah. Okay. Who? Yeah. Austria group or A1, and that’s with Tag, that’s an enterprise one as well. That’s a different one though isn’t it? That’s their A1 one. Yeah so we got, hang on. There’s ins copra [?] Do they not need to win there? Is that one of the weaker ones? Okay so I’ll do that one for now.
“Amdocs, obviously we are very keen to make sure they win something. And the Sprint one I think was the one in particular was that right?
“I’m also quite keen for them to win the second one, the only reason why, the XL Axiata? I think they were, aren’t they an Asian company?
“Gareth Morris Do you remember, he was the CEO of Axiata? Axiata? Who I played golf with at Dubai that…who…Nepalese. So if we could do that It could be a way of catching up with him.
“So that’s Amdocs, XL whatever yeh? I’m loving this, this is good fun….
“Ok, Strax. Okay, I know we could probably get some minimum table revenue out of them, Pierre Louis, if they win, because they will definitely attend. I’ll highlight them for now.
“We’ve picked 20 winners so far. Okay, Obsidian,* mumbles* yeh. I mean I feel bad that people have actually gone through all the effort to submit something when they’re not going to get… but fucking hell. I mean, they’re all turning up, they’re getting an award for something, aren’t they? *colleagues laugh* Don’t you guys quote me on any of this!”