What is a Media Safety Advisor (MSA)?



I get many CV’s from people in the close protection industry asking for work.


I’d like to raise a couple of points, namely the differences between the close protection specialist and a MSA.  While there is some cross over between the two, there are also some significant differences in the roles.


I have been operating with media for over 12 years and prior to that I was on what was commonly known as the circuit as a self-employed consultant.  I have seen many good CP operators attempt to work with media and fail, both operational and as training instructors.


I remember being on the border of Syria with a senior producer of a major News network, planning options to cross the border to cover the fighting between Daesh and the Kurds. While sitting there weighing up our options another News crew pulled up in their 4×4, out jumped a burly chap, dressed in 911 clothing, skin tight black under armour t-shirt with a shaved head and wrap around shades.  He struts over to me and my producer and introduces himself “Hi, I’m……… I’m security for ……………” I look at my producer and she looks at me, under her breath she says “that’s the exact kind of fucking idiot we don’t want working with us”


In Libya, while staying under the host of the Gadaffi regime a number of media security guys were identified and compromised by pro-Government hench men, some were kicked out of the country, some received a slap or two.  Either way they had failed, failed to blend in and failed to give their client the appropriate support.  Some didn’t understand the job of media, saying “NO” to an international News correspondent, does not go down well, you will lose credibility quickly and you will lose the crew, they may just continue without you.


In the world of close protection when an incident happens, you take your client into safety.  In our world, when an incident happens we need to cover it, it is our job to come up with multiple options in assisting that crew to get the story.  I remember another situation in Libya, chatting with a media consultant with another network.  He complained they never listened to him, never did what he said and never told him what going on.  It was all because they wanted to go to the front lines to get footage of the fighting, he said “NO”; the response should have been “ok let’s have a look at it” and then plan out the options with the crew.


I tell people on our courses that the best and most effective tool that an MSA has to be able to develop is communication.  Journalists are free thinking intelligent people.  We are there to assist in any way possible.  From assisting the producer, gathering information, local intelligence, sourcing and running fixers, setting up camera, lighting and sound equipment, running cables and yes making the tea!  An MSA needs to be jack of all, blending in and being part of the team, do you want to be seen by a third party as the security bod?  Or do you want to be the grey person.  We are there to ensure the safety of the whole crew and to get the job done in the safest possible way.  Communication is paramount, you can’t talk to a media crew as ‘that’ security individual, you have to be able to communicate as an equal and what you have to say has editorial value as well as safety in mind.

Just because individuals have been doing CP, possibly hold a CP licence, come from an ex-military or law enforcement background they think they can work with media.  I’m sorry you are wrong.  Not everyone is suited to this role.  To begin with you need to understand the various mediums of media and how they operate.  You have to understand how the various types of media work, from reality based formats, News gathering, photographers, print to name but a few.


Your medical skills have to be up to scratch.  In Ghana I was looking after a crew of 25, I was given two medics, both had claimed to have done MIRA, neither knew anything about heat related injuries, diseases, treatment of snake bite, the list went on.  We are the first and last line of safety and medical.  We operate as individuals more often than not, we are badged as field producers, not security.


When I have spoken to individuals looking for work, one question that often comes up is weapons.  99% of the time we are not armed, as mentioned we are on the ground as media, media are protected under the conventions as civilians, carrying weapons would only cause us all major issues.


Cultural awareness is another issue that has to be factored in, we work globally, with many different cultures, a lack of cultural awareness in the environment you are in may cause you more harm than good.  You have to leave your own prejudices back at home and keep an open mind.  Depending on individuals past experiences and personal feelings this may be an issue for some people.  I have witnessed individuals being sacked because of making flippant derogatory comments about locals in front of the crew.


You are only as good as your last job.  Media are fickle and a close knit community.  You upset one person from an organisation and you’ll soon find yourself black listed from more than just that company.


There is no stability in this type of security and safety work, no 9 on 2 off, it can be a case of getting a phone call to see if your available and getting on a plane within hours, the task may be 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months.


After years of operating with media and listening to media complain about security consultants, TYR developed and accredited the Media Safety Advisors course.  It is a 3 day module aimed at those wishing to explore the media safety world and give them an understanding of how the various types of media work.  The course has been accredited by the Highfield Awarding Body.


For further information, email info@tyr-solutions.com

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