BBC admits receiving millions in grants from EU and councils
The BBC received millions of pounds from the European Union and local authorities over the past four years, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
The news prompted MPs to raise questions about the BBC’s impartiality when its journalists report on events in the EU.
The BBC admitted in a letter to a Tory MP that it has received nearly £3million in grant money from the European Union over the past four years.
Other grants totalling £16million came from local authorities across the UK. The money was spent on “research and development projects”.
The broadcaster also disclosed that its commercial arm BBC Worldwide borrowed over £141million from the European Investment Bank since 2003. Of that figure £30million is still due to be repaid by the end of May this year.
These figures are disclosed in the commercial arm’s annual report, while the BBC’s annual report does not make clear where the grant money comes from.
Conservative MP Karl McCartney, who obtained the information through a Parliamentary Question, said he was concerned that receiving the money could affect the way the BBC covers events in the European Union.
He said: “People will quite rightly continue to question what influence the EU exerts over the BBC, particularly in the light of EU loans and grants, and the BBC’s often one-sided coverage of matters relating to Europe.
“This and other examples of BBC bias and left wing leaning politicised reporting worry and concern both me and my colleagues.”
Conservative MP Dominic Raab said that this “financial dependence of the BBC on the EU casts a shadow over its editorial independence”.
He added: “The BBC covers EU issues on a daily basis, so people will understandably – and legitimately – question whether there is a link between the money it receives and the reporting it broadcasts.
“Whether or not there is an actual conflict of interest, it risks undermining their perceived impartiality.”
Priti Patel, a Tory MP, said that the figures “explains much of their subjective, pro-European commentary and hostility to those who critic the EU”. She asked: “How can a public service broadcaster demonstrate genuine impartially on European issues if it in receipt of EU funds?”
The news comes after questions have been raised about the uncritical tone of the BBC’s coverage of the EU. In 2010, Jonathan Charles, the BBC’s former Brussels correspondent, admitted he and the BBC had got carried away by the launch of the Euro currency in 2002.
He said: ‘Even now, I can remember the great air of excitement. It did seem like the start of a new era… for a few brief days, I suppose I and everyone else suspended their scepticism and got caught up in that euphoria.”
An analysis by Eurosceptic thinktank Global Britain found that over the past six years, just 0.04 per cent of the coverage on Radio Four’s flagship Today programme was devoted to the potential benefits of withdrawing from the EU.
A BBC spokesman said: “Each year in our Annual Report we disclose the total income received from a variety of grants. Grants from the EU make up a relatively small proportion of the total figure. The vast majority of EU grants are used for research and development projects.
“BBC News does not receive any grant funding from the EU. Impartiality and balanced reporting is and always will be of paramount importance for the BBC.”
BBC Worldwide, which buys programmes from the BBC and markets them around the world, said there were “no editorial conditions of any sort” attached to the loans it had received from the European Investment Bank.
The BBC borrowed money from the EIB because it was able to lend at a cheaper rate than other commercial institutions.
A BBC Worldwide spokesman said: “It represents funding for BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, which is self-financing and has absolutely no access to licence fee funds.
“This loan was obtained on a fully commercial basis and has no editorial impact on the BBC’s output.”