AFP-Powermetrix Partnership: Unethical and Anti-Journalistic

On April 30th Agence France-Presse announced an editorial partnership with a private company called Powermetrix, which claims to provide objective data on household consumption of electrical energy via a panel of users.

The AFP statement (our translation) asserts that under the terms of the partnership Powermetrix "will provide AFP with quarterly data on the behaviour of French energy consumers. This information will allow the agency to develop its expertise on issues related to the green economy."

This agreement is not only incomprehensible, it is also totally unethical and as such violates the founding statutes of AFP that our association was set up to defend.

Incomprehensible

Since when has a press outlet, and particularly a news agency, needed to sign a "partnership" with any kind of entity in order to gain access to the basic raw materials of all journalism, ie basic information?

AFP, which in other circumstances protests, and with good reason, against the privatisation of certain types of data, particularly in the field of sports coverage, appears to be encouraging exactly the same type of approach, this time in the area of economic news. By so doing, the agency is undermining the very journalistic independence that it is supposed to be defending.

Unethical

A glimpse at the Powermetrix web site reveals that the company is actually promoting a specific product used to measure energy consumption in people's homes: the "Wattgo" smart electricity meter (www.wattgo.com ). How can the company claim to be providing objective data to the media when it is clearly defending specific commercial interests within the industry it claims to be monitoring?

Either AFP has resolved, by concluding the partnership in question, that the data provided by Powermetrix is inherently reliable, in which case the agency is riding roughshod over the principles it claims to defend on its web site, ie to provide "rigorous, verified news, free from political or commercial influence".

Or its journalists may may end up realising that Powermetrix's data is not necessarily infallible, in which case the partnership will become manifestly absurd and AFP will have to drop it.

It is furthermore surprising that AFP's statement should include the phrase "green economy" to justify the partnership with Powermetrix. Is AFP, the world's number-three news agency, in some way suggesting that the activities of this private company are part of the supposed "green economy", assuming that such a slippery concept can be satisfactorily defined? In which case, it would appear that the agency is engaging in the very "greenwashing" that so many environmental organisations denounce.

The first two articles of AFP's founding statutes require that the agency provide "exact, impartial and trustworthy information" and that it "may under no circumstances fall under the control, either de facto or de jure, of any ideological, political or economic grouping". Article 13 of the statutes further strengthens those provisions by stating explicitly that AFP fulfils "general interest missions". ( http://www.sos-afp.org/en/statutes ).

For all the above reasons, we call on AFP's management to rescind this unnatural and unethical agreement.

Association to defend the Independence of Agence France-Presse (ADIAFP), Thursday May 2, 2013.