Exclusive: Broadcaster said it
had taken the cash under the European Union framework programme
The BBC has admitted taking more than £2 million in European Union
funding over the past three years, in a move that critics said called into doubt the corporation’s impartiality over the forthcoming
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
But critics of the corporation said that accepting any EU
funding in the run-up to the referendum, expected before the end of 2017, was
Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative MP and a stern critic of the corporation,
said: “Everyone knows that the BBC has an inbuilt pro-EU bias, but it should be
above reproach during this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to vote on the future
of our relationship with Europe. It already receives £3.7 billion from the
licence fee, and taking EU funding unavoidably creates the impression that it
is being paid to do the EU’s bidding.”
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.”
A BBC spokesman said: “BBC News protects its impartiality by not
permitting any external funding, which includes EU grants. Our annual report
discloses any income received from grants covering a variety of areas, of
which, a very small proportion comes from the EU for non-news research and
Earlier this year it emerged that BBC Media Action, an independent charity that operates on an arms-length basis, received
£9.3 million in European funding between 2011 and 2014, much of it to deliver
the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy.
As part of this work, BBC Media Action led a consortium of media
companies under a three-year project which provided training for hundreds of journalists in 17 countries on
the outskirts of Europe.
James Harding, the director of BBC News, told MPs in October that every
one of the corporation’s journalists will be sent on a compulsory training
course about the EU, in a bid to ensure impartial coverage of the referendum.
The executive admitted that the poll would “test perceptions of the BBC’s
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