The Daily Telegraph had an overnight 'exclusive' about the BBC:
Now, I have to say that I find these kinds of story very hard to fathom at times. Pinning down exactly what's what when it comes to EU funding for the BBC keeps proving a little bit tricky, especially as the BBC is never exactly forthcoming about it. Plus it would also help the reader's understanding if the Telegraph were to link to the source of its latest 'scoop' - namely the relevant pages of the EU's transparency register.
Anyhow, from what I can make of it, "The BBC has admitted taking more than £2 million in European Union funding over the past three years" and that this is above and beyond the £9.3 million its Media Action unit received between 2011 and 2014 and which went in part towards projects associated with the EU's European Neighbourhood Policy.
Just as a reminder about that previously disclosed funding...as Media Neighbourhood's own website puts it:
We are a journalism training project funded by the European Union and run by a BBC Media Action led consortium. We cover 17 countries in the European Neighbourhood.
The programme's "two key objectives", according to the same website, are:
- To strengthen the professional capacity of journalists across the ENPI region, particularly in the areas of media independence and online media.
- To enable the public in the ENPI countries to have a more informed and objective understanding of EU social, economic and political issues and cooperation with the ENPI beneficiary countries.
The countries in question are: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, The Russian Federation, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.
Quite what "enabling the public...to have a more informed and objective understanding" of EU-related matters means and quite why the BBC's Media Action Unit is engaged in helping to deliver this project for the EU I really cannot say but I don't like the sound of it one bit, impartiality-wise.
Anyhow, that's just a reminder of where we previously stood over the already-disclosed £9.3 million EU funding for the BBC's Media Action Unit. The money the Telegraph is reporting about EU funding that seems to be above and beyond that:
The broadcaster said it had taken the cash under the European Union framework programme, to fund its research and development arm, which is working on projects such as 3D broadcasting, and ultra-high definition filming.
The BBC is not allowed to spend the money on programme-making or newsgathering, and corporation sources insisted that the grants helped the entire broadcasting sector develop new technology, and had no impact on editorial decisions.
In the financial year 2013/14 the BBC took £878,000, while in 2014/15 it received £778,000. The broadcaster has received £476,000 in the current financial year, but that figure is expected to rise. The EU transparency register, where the payments are listed, states: “Grants are non-programme related projects undertaken by BBC R&D.”
Searching the EU's transparency register, I think this might have been one of the pages the Telegraph has been looking at, though I can't be sure. It's the BBC's own 'registrant' page on the register:
So what is going on here?
Why is BBC Media Action receiving EU funding to help the EU "enable" the publics in countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Russia to "have a more informed and objective understanding" of the EU and its relationship with those countries?
And why is the BBC receiving funding for R&D from the EU, especially in the run-up to the UK's in-out referendum on EU membership?
The more you read the Media Neighbourhood website, the odder it all becomes. As it's banner says, "This project is funded by the European Union. This project is being delivered by a consortium led by BBC Media Action".
Reading its 'European Union' page, however, the project's lack of impartiality could hardly be clearer. It begins...
The European Union (EU) is unique. It is not a federal state like the United States of America because its member countries remain independent sovereign nations. Nor is it a purely intergovernmental organisation like the United Nations because the member countries pool some of their sovereignty — and thus gain greater collective strength and influence than they could have acting individually.
...and continues (at length):
The European Union (EU) is a family of democratic European countries working together to improve life for their citizens and to build a better world.
Family squabbles and occasional crises are what make the news headlines, but away from the cameras the EU is actually a remarkable success story. In just over half a century it has delivered peace and prosperity in Europe, a single European currency (the euro) and a frontier-free ‘single market’ where goods, people, services and capital move around freely. It has become a major trading power, and a world leader in fields such as environmental protection and development aid. No wonder it has grown from six to 28 members and more countries want to join.
This is the pro-EU message this EU-funded project is projecting to those 17 other 'neighbourhood' countries and, to repeat, "this project is being delivered by a consortium led by BBC Media Action".
What is the BBC doing being involved in this?
Am I missing something? I'm beginning to think I must be because this seems too bad, too damning, too easy a 'gotcha!' to be true, doesn't it?