Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The BBC and its alleged EU impartiality.

Living in the UK, you tend to hear a lot about the BBC and its supposed impartiality. By law, the BBC is supposed to be impartial, and were you to ask people on the political left, the opinion generally suggests that those questioning the impartiality of the BBC are an inch or two short of crackpots. However, on the right public opinion isn't quite as simple. On a number of occasions, audiences and/or panels appear to have been stacked (especially when it comes to Question Time), and the Conservatives (and especially UKIP) have been on the receiving end of exceedingly harsh treatment, leading to the Conservatives reviewing BBC funding as a result of their 2015 election coverage. License payer fees are obviously not to benefit one political party over another, yet that is exactly what appear to be happening. And should you look into past controversies, it's clear that impartiality has not always exactly been a priority within the walls of the BBC.

Wikipedia have an entire article on this topic - "Criticism of the BBC" [1]. Most telling is this quote from their former Director General -

"Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC said in 2010 "In the BBC I joined 30 years ago [as a production trainee, in 1979], there was, in much of current affairs, in terms of people's personal politics, which were quite vocal, a massive bias to the left. The organisation did struggle then with impartiality." [5]"

Needless to say, this remains a hotly debated topic, and this is far from the only quote to support the case. The BBC defend themselves using a Cardiff University study, which allegedly show the Conservatives receiving more air time than Labour, with more focus on Tory ministers than equivalent Labour shadow ministers. Two problems however - the Tories were in power at the time, meaning it's only natural they get more exposure, and b) The BBC commissioned and PAID for this study. Much like Microsoft commissioned studies showing Microsoft Vista being the favoured consumer OS back in 2006, this blatantly has potential conflicts of interest undermining its supposed credibility.

However, the political bias of the BBC was not really what I wanted to focus on here. We're currently in the run-up to the EU referendum on the 23rd of June. And once again, the "alleged" impartiality of the BBC rears its ugly head. We are supposed to be broadcast an evenly matched Stay/Leave informative trail, but that is not what appears to be happening - the claim is that the EU is in the camp of Stay. Now, rather than go through various articles here and there, I wish to focus on just one thing - funding. External funding, to be precise. You can of course claim that external funds make no differences in terms of bias or partiality, but then you'd have to accept that the various large donors to political parties - including unions - do so exclusively for altruistic reasons.

To start off with, the BBC runs a trust formerly known as "The BBC World Service Trust", now "BBC Media Action". Although supposedly financially independent, it has received over 30m Euro of EU funding during 2007-2014 - translating to just over 4m euro each year. This is all public information - head over to the EU's financial transparency system website and check for yourself [5]. Now, obviously, the counterargument is that since this is a financially independent institution, it won't impact the BBC - however, facts are that a) the BBC will scoop up goodwill by having their brand attached, and b) there's a large overlap in directorships between the BBC and their Media Action group - the Telegraph goes further into details in this regard. Furthermore, given an annual budget around the 40m mark, this would suggest EU funding makes up about 8% of their total funding. Should the BBC start broadcasting euro-skeptic information, what would happen to those 8%? Can anyone point me to a single case of the EU funding openly EU skeptical institutions to the tune of 4m Euros/year? I certainly haven't found any.

Furthermore, in terms of direct funding, the BBC received about £1m of EU funds in the period April 2011 - November 2013 specifically for programming [9]. Note that this information wasn't even in the public domain until a freedom of information request was successfully lodged by the Spectator [7].

In 1993, the EU commissioned and paid for a member of the European Parliament, Willy deClercq, to write a little known document by the catchy name of "Reflection on Information and Communication Policy of the European Community[8]. This document outlines "marketing techniques" which are to "sell the European Union to its citizens" - it frankly reads like brainwashing 101. I've included some passages below, but heavily recommend you read the document in full. Take note of the highlighted sections below - they specifically cover who to target by the EU funded propaganda, how, and who should fund it... and next we find that the BBC receive EU funds for programming? What an extraordinary coincidence.

This is not to say that this is conclusive evidence of the EU conspiring with public broadcasters (in this case, the BBC) to brainwash target demographics using taxpayer funds. But it's certainly an extraordinary coincidence. Yes, that's what it is - an extraordinary coincidence.

"Youth : Young people of different nationalities in Europe probably have more in common with each other than they do with their parents. They are certainly more open to European values and ideals than the older generations. Since it is strategically wise to go where the resistance is least, young people should be a primary target for persuasion and conviction." [page 12]

"The communication of 'Europe' must be a continuous process of education, culture and formation, starting at secondary school stage. School books should be reviewed, not in order to rewrite history, but to ensure that a European dimension is given to our past, and that the events leading up to European Union are explained to, and understood by school children. The European dimension should be emphasized particularly in subjects such as geography, history, economics and civics. More European schools should also be encouraged." [page 27]

"The programmes must be total and continuous, covering television, radio and press relations, editorial support, advertising, public relations, direct marketing, public speaking, interviews, visits by special-interest groups, special issue EC postage stamps (with ECU equivalent values), the publication of specific-interest pamphlets, etc." [page 31]

"Co-funding of national campaigns by the Commission is one way to ensure that the Commission is involved in national campaigns before they are launched. " [page 32]

"Newscasters and reporters must themselves be targeted, they must themselves be persuaded about European Union. It is crucial to change their opinions first, so that they subsequently become enthusiastic supporters of the cause. " [page 35]


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