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Bell Pottinger saga prompts PR industry introspection

Bell Pottinger has apologised for some of the work done, adding it has sacked the lead partner on the account and suspended three other employees pending an investigation.

The Public Relations Institute of South Africa logo. Picture: Prisa.co.za

CAPE TOWN - The Public Relations Institute of South Africa (Prisa) says the recent saga involving Bell Pottinger highlights the need for the industry to be regulated.

The body was commenting on recent accusations the United Kingdom agency stirred racial tensions in some of its campaigns for the Gupta-owned Oakbay company in South Africa.

Last week, Bell Pottinger apologised for some of the work done, adding it had sacked the lead partner on the account and suspended three other employees pending an investigation.

The Democratic Alliance has since lodged complaints with two British regulatory bodies over the matter.

Prisa President Kavitha Kalicharan says the Bell Pottinger saga has put the spotlight on the lack of regulations in the public relations industry.

“If someone is practising unethically, whether it’s an individual or a consultancy and they’re a member of Prisa, we can take them to task. However it would merely mean the suspension of the membership.”

Meanwhile, one of the bodies the DA wrote to, the Public Relations and Communications Association, has since launched a probe to determine whether Bell Pottinger contravened its ethics code.

Another body - the Chartered Institute of Public Relations - has told Eyewitness News although it takes complaints very seriously it will not divulge whether a complaint exists or whether they are investigating the matter.

(Edited by Zinhle Nkosi)