Saudi Media Ministry Hires Former Producer for US Anchor Katie Couric for PR Campaign
A former producer for US news anchor Katie Couric has taken a new job with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media, according to a disclosure filed with the US Department of Justice.
According to the filing made under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) on Monday, Couric’s former producer told the DOJ that she had been working for Thiqah Business Services for much of the previous year. The firm is 100% owned by the Saudi government, according to the city marketing portal Eye of Riyadh, which notes it is “owned by Saudi Authority for Accredited Valuers (TAQEEM), and Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants (SOCPA).”
She received $15,000 in retainer payments from the firm in both November and December of 2021, but the filing noted no other information about compensation. A copy of the contract for her freelance services that was included in the filing was dated May 29, 2021.
According to the filing, Nicolla Hewitt “will perform general public relations and media outreach services, including outreach to broadcast, print, and social media about the changing way of life in Saudi Arabia.”
The ministry’s website says it “works in an active role by identifying and preserving the Saudi identity, spreading Islamic values in the Saudi citizen's life, expressing the achievements of Saudi Arabia. The Ministry contributes to raise the awareness and roles that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia doing.”
The Saudi monarchy has long leaned on Western consulting firms to manage its public relations, especially after launching the catastrophic war against the Yemeni Houthi movement in 2015. In the six months following the outbreak of war, the Saudi embassy in Washington, DC, paid French consulting firm Qorvis Communications $7 million in PR services, according to The Intercept. It has retained the firm since 2002.
Hewitt worked as a producer for Couric at many of the major US corporate television news outlets over the years, including NBC, CBS, and Yahoo, until 2014, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also worked at ABC for a time. However, in 2008 she also started her own firm, Nicolla Hewitt Communications.