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PeaceGen

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Published: 20 Jul 2021 | 09:00 GMT
Shocking leaked files once again expose BBC as insidious UK foreign policy tool

BBC Broadcasting House offices and recording studios seen in London © Reuters

By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

A newly released raft of government papers has revealed the British Broadcasting Corporation’s extensive involvement in spreading pro-London, pro-EU, and pro-NATO messaging across the Balkans.

In February, classified documents revealed that BBC Media Action (BBCMA), the ‘charitable arm’ of the British state broadcaster, was embroiled in a number of clandestine operations to “weaken the Russian state's influence,” funded by the UK Foreign Office.

The exposure raised serious questions about the BBC’s international reputation as a ‘neutral’, ‘objective’ purveyor of news, and what implications its murky relationship with Whitehall has for its output more widely. A further tranche of leaked files, related to covert UK actions in the Balkans, amply reinforces that the organization serves as a cloak-and-dagger device for achieving London’s foreign policy goals.

The papers indicate that BBCMA has been operating across the region since 1996, conducting a wide variety of “media capacity-building, reform and change management” projects. Cited examples of its initiatives include reforming [the] institutional structures” of Montenegro’s state broadcaster RTCG, working with Macedonian media to “effectively cover elections” and act as a “watchdog,” and supporting the development of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Public Broadcasting System.

The organization also targeted youth audiences in five separate Balkan countries with “an innovative multi-platform media project,” which aimed to “build young people’s capacity for civic participation.” The centrepiece was “social media-based educational web drama” #SamoKazem (Just Saying). Strikingly, viewers were directed to “offline activities to translate awareness into action for change,” strongly suggesting stirring teenagers to activism was the program’s ultimate objective.
Details of BBCMA’s extensive meddling in Serbia greatly reinforces the overtly political nature of its Balkan ventures. From 2007 to 2017 alone, it delivered “four large-scale projects” in the country, such as “a challenging undertaking” with Radio Television Serbia (RTS) over the course of two years “to assist in its transition from state to public service broadcaster,” and working to “professionalise” five local radio stations “to develop their capacity to hold local government to account.”

The organization also delivered a huge three-year project for the European Union, which “strengthened media capacities for improving objective public information about all aspects of EU integration” – in other words, it assisted in the production of pro-Brussels propaganda. Vital work indeed, considering Serbian citizens remain by far the most skeptical about bloc membership.

Under the program’s auspices, BBCMA distributed a two-million-euro grant to 25 Serbian media platforms, and helped produce a staggering 174 separate TV programs, including the 15-part RTS series ‘What’s in It for Me?’ – which averaged 500,000 viewers per episode and won a national award for best EU-related documentary – and human trafficking docudrama ‘Sisters’, which was shown at the United Nations and won “numerous” awards.

Other files explicitly confirm that there is little meaningful distinction between the BBC and its charitable arm. In service of a Foreign Office effort to counteract allegedly falling levels of independence in Macedonian and Serbian media, which ran from November 2016 to March 2019, BBCMA created “a pool of local media professionals with the skills, knowledge and willingness to ensure digital media plays an effective role in fostering debate and accountability.”

Beneficiaries were said to have benefited from the British state broadcaster’s “wealth of experience and talent in creating quality journalism and compelling programmes,” with BBC journalists embedded in the organizations for which they worked in order to provide “mentoring/on-the job training, production support and co-production.” They were also granted access to the BBC Digital Lab, BBC studios, and BBC Blue Room.
The organization asserted in its Whitehall submissions that it considered the production of content to be a fantastic opportunity to “have [an] impact with Serbian and Macedonian audiences.” The consequences of its machinations aren’t certain, although it could be significant that one veteran BBC journalist assigned to the project was in charge of “masterminding” coverage of UK elections during their many years at the Beeb.

After all, the endeavor concluded not long before North Macedonia’s 2019 presidential vote, which pitted pro-EU, pro-NATO candidate Stevo Pendarovski against Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, a more skeptical, pro-Russian figure. While the first round of the election produced a virtual tie, precipitating a runoff, Pendaraovski was comfortably elected in the second. What’s more, previously leaked files make abundantly clear that the Foreign Office sought to interfere directly in the process in other ways.
That the UK government is engaged in multiple cloak-and-dagger initiatives to influence politics and perceptions in the Balkans is sinister enough, without even considering the covert and overt role played by London in the blood-spattered breakup of Yugoslavia, the non-aligned, independent republic that once comprised most of the region. Given this history, BBCMA’s restructuring of RTS is rendered particularly disquieting.

On April 23, 1999, in the midst of the West’s protracted bombing campaign against Serbia, RTS’ headquarters in Belgrade, along with several radio and electrical installations throughout the country, were targeted for destruction by NATO missiles. In all, 16 journalists were killed in the strike and 16 more wounded, with many trapped in the rubble for days afterward.

In the face of significant international condemnation, high-ranking US and UK officials rushed to declare the bombing entirely justified. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair defended it on the basis the station was part of “the apparatus of dictatorship and power” of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

“The responsibility for every single part of this action lies with the man who has engaged in this policy of ethnic cleansing and must be stopped,” he added.
Of course, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a UN body established to prosecute crimes committed during the Yugoslav wars and their perpetrators, would eventually conclude Yugoslav troops had not in fact pursued a policy of ethnic cleansing, and Milosevic, who died in a UN prison in 2006, was posthumously exonerated of all charges.

The ICTY also considered whether the RTS bombing constituted a war crime, ultimately ruling that while its pro-government transmissions didn’t make the station a military target, as the action aimed to disrupt the state’s communications network, it was still legitimate.

Amnesty International branded the tribunal’s findings a miscarriage of justice, and contradictorily too, the judgment quoted NATO General Wesley Clark, who oversaw the overall campaign, as saying it was well-understood that the attack would only interrupt RTS broadcasts for a brief period, but “we thought it was a good move to strike it and the political leadership agreed with us.” In the event, it was off the air for a mere three hours.

Another motive for the hideous incident unexplored by the ICTY could well be that the station’s reporting on NATO’s almost-daily attacks on civilian and industrial infrastructure in Serbia was overly problematic for the military alliance, given its intervention was sold on humanitarian grounds. Nine days prior to the RTS bombing, as many as 85 innocent civilians were killed when NATO jets bombed a Kosovan refugee convoy.
While spokespeople initially claimed the tragedy was an “accident”, RTS subsequently broadcast a chilling recording of the pilot who delivered the deadly payload being repeatedly ordered to strike the convoy on the basis it was a “completely legitimate” target, despite them protesting that they couldn’t see any tanks or military hardware on the ground, just cars and tractors. If truth is the first casualty of war, purveyors of truth are surely the second.

In a perverse irony, though, the ICTY did record that NATO had warned Yugoslav authorities weeks prior that RTS may be caught in the crossfire, unless it acquiesced to broadcasting six hours of uncensored Western media reports per day to balance its coverage, thus making it an “acceptable instrument of public information.”

With the troublesome socialist federation of Yugoslavia now irrevocably smashed into pieces, Whitehall needn’t threaten the use of military force to compel Balkan media outlets to transmit pro-Western propaganda. It simply dispatches BBC staffers to their o@ffices, under the bogus aegis of promoting media diversity, free expression, democracy, civic participation, and fostering debate, to ensure they remain “acceptable” instruments of public information.

RT has approached BBC Media Action and the UK Foreign Office for comment.
this is a ridiculous viewpoint.
nationalism is found in every country.
 

Nasr

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this is a ridiculous viewpoint.
nationalism is found in every country.
Nope, it is not nationalism when a state is projecting (more like imposing) it's narrative upon other countries. BBC has services affiliates and foreign station offices around the world.

Also, you seem to be conveniently forgetting british media slogan "Global Britain", which implies british narrative is to reach every corner of the planet.

The largest empire ever conceived in the history of humanity. The pioneer of making slavery an "Enterprise". The same britain that claimed it had the "burden to civilize the rest of humanity" and you consider britain to be just nationalistic?

Wake up my friend, an colonialist, imperialist empire that existed for 200 years, would have a change of heart and become all benevolent now?

Must be all Skittles Rainbows, Marshmallow Clouds, Unicorns and Elves in the world you live in. Hope it's always sunny out there.

8-)
 

PeaceGen

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Nope, it is not nationalism when a state is projecting (more like imposing) it's narrative upon other countries. BBC has services affiliates and foreign station offices around the world.

Also, you seem to be conveniently forgetting british media slogan "Global Britain", which implies british narrative is to reach every corner of the planet.

The largest empire ever conceived in the history of humanity. The pioneer of making slavery an "Enterprise". The same britain that claimed it had the "burden to civilize the rest of humanity" and you consider britain to be just nationalistic?

Wake up my friend, an colonialist, imperialist empire that existed for 200 years, would have a change of heart and become all benevolent now?

Must be all Skittles Rainbows, Marshmallow Clouds, Unicorns and Elves in the world you live in. Hope it's always sunny out there.

8-)
1 : i respect your viewpoint.
2 : however, all of the regions that Britain has colonized, seem like very peaceful regions to me.
(i went to Australia for a year, and had a great time there)
3 : there are blacks and brown-skinned people in those colonized regions, and in the UK itself, and racism is rare there.
 

Nasr

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1 : i respect your viewpoint.
And as my fellow human, I respect you.

2 : however, all of the regions that Britain has colonized, seem like very peaceful regions to me.
The times that we exist in today, appearances and reality seldom go hand in hand. The british have a history peppered with examples of how deceptive and sinister they really are. Like wolves in sheep skin.

I humbly suggest you read into how the british clandestine services' have operated in countries such as Libya, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq.

By birth, I am an Afghan, born in Qandhar, but have lived out my entire life in Pakistan. I have family on both sides of the border and I know a thing or two of their activities in both of my home countries (I hold both Afghanistan & Pakistan, as my homeland/heartland).

(i went to Australia for a year, and had a great time there)
I have been there as well, but I had a completely different experience. What I immediately figured out, the color of my skin seemed to be the problem. Most of them did what in the Caribbean is known as "Skin Teething" the white man's smile, that appears when you're face to face, but the moment you are in his peripheral vision, the smile instantaneously vanishes. Others showed their contempt with veiled words of insult. I guess they didn't expect a "Taliban" to have the intellect and command of the english language, better than them. And then there were those who used outright intimidation or fists. Well .... be it veiled insults, intellectual debate or fists, I don't take kindly to such things. Born and raised as a Pukhtun, I don't take any nonsense from anyone. So as per the circumstance, I dealt with them in the most appropriate and reciprocal manner.

Tell you one thing, that was my first and last visit to australia. I don't care to go where people behave in such a racist, condescending and arrogant way.

3 : there are blacks and brown-skinned people in those colonized regions, and in the UK itself, and racism is rare there.
My friend, if you aren't white, then I am happy for you that you didn't experience the arrogance, or the insults, or the intimidation. But if you are white, I would point out that they treat even White Slavic Europeans with such condescendence as they do us Brown or Black people.

Perhaps you were one of the lucky ones to come across the good people (minority) of british descent.
 

Genghis khan1

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Remember when she use to write English diaries to BBC at 11 from her mountain village. Village where 11 year old can hardly read.
1627154849666.jpeg
 
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PeaceGen

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And as my fellow human, I respect you.
Thanks :)


The times that we exist in today, appearances and reality seldom go hand in hand. The british have a history peppered with examples of how deceptive and sinister they really are. Like wolves in sheep skin.
with all due respect, so are many other cultures on Earth, when they feel they need to be.
and Britain and the US are/were not the only countries with imperialist desires.

I humbly suggest you read into how the british clandestine services' have operated in countries such as Libya, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Yeah, those are sometimes called the black pages in the history books.
When common and relatively stupid soldiers commit warcrimes, or when a government purposefully and deceitfully send in such forces to strike down opposition to their plans, those are all black pages in history.

i regret such events and try to prevent them from happening in the future.
i also support legal action to put the guilty behind bars.

I have been there [Australia] as well, but I had a completely different experience. What I immediately figured out, the color of my skin seemed to be the problem. Most of them did what in the Caribbean is known as "Skin Teething" the white man's smile, that appears when you're face to face, but the moment you are in his peripheral vision, the smile instantaneously vanishes. Others showed their contempt with veiled words of insult. I guess they didn't expect a "Taliban" to have the intellect and command of the english language, better than them. And then there were those who used outright intimidation or fists. Well .... be it veiled insults, intellectual debate or fists, I don't take kindly to such things. Born and raised as a Pukhtun, I don't take any nonsense from anyone. So as per the circumstance, I dealt with them in the most appropriate and reciprocal manner.

Tell you one thing, that was my first and last visit to australia. I don't care to go where people behave in such a racist, condescending and arrogant way.
There are always regions of the world where you'd feel unsafe due to your native culture and the way you look and dress yourself. I wouldn't go to the Middle East, Asia, South-America, or even Southern-Europe..

My friend, if you aren't white, then I am happy for you that you didn't experience the arrogance, or the insults, or the intimidation. But if you are white, I would point out that they treat even White Slavic Europeans with such condescendence as they do us Brown or Black people.

Perhaps you were one of the lucky ones to come across the good people (minority) of british descent.
No, they like me because in English i sound like an American, i'm easy to get along with, stuff like that.

As the saying goes : birds of a feather, tend to flock together.. :)
 

Globenim

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What do they mean with "expose"? At this point its common knowledge, unless you are living in ignorance in some American or American pet or puppet regime controlled disinfo propaganda bubble.
 

Nasr

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You're most welcome!

with all due respect, so are many other cultures on Earth, when they feel they need to be.
and Britain and the US are/were not the only countries with imperialist desires.
With all due respect, my dear friend, it wasn't the "so many other cultures" that became a "Ruling State" in the world. Nor did the "so many other cultures" impose their will on others, in a bid "To transform the rest of Mankind, into Carbon Copies of themselves."

Both britain and america have been a "Ruling State", which by definition means that the state has the ability to impose its will on other states, with impunity.

So by giving examples of "other cultures," you can't possibly hope to justify what britain and america have done.
 

khansaheeb

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BBC is far from neutral. As a test case one merely needs to observe BBC Urdu where they give space to Ethno fascists' and commies. Most of BBC Urdu staff is biased against Pakistan. Only a moron would believe that a govt sponsored broadcaster is not biased or not propagating agenda of that govt in this case UK and US.
BBC stands for British bullsh!t company.
 

raptor22

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1953 Coup in Iran:
The signal for the coup scenario to begin had been arranged with the BBC; the latter agreed to begin its Persian language news broadcast not with the usual “it is now midnight in London”, but instead with “it is now exactly midnight”.​
 

PeaceGen

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You're most welcome!



With all due respect, my dear friend, it wasn't the "so many other cultures" that became a "Ruling State" in the world. Nor did the "so many other cultures" impose their will on others, in a bid "To transform the rest of Mankind, into Carbon Copies of themselves."

Both britain and america have been a "Ruling State", which by definition means that the state has the ability to impose its will on other states, with impunity.

So by giving examples of "other cultures," you can't possibly hope to justify what britain and america have done.
man, come on.. what did the Persians do to expand their empire? use force.
the Mongols/Tartars? same thing ;)
the Mayans? same thing ;)
The Chinese in present day and recent history? same thing.
The Russians post-WW2? same thing.
The Romans? same thing.
Tribes in Africa (Shaka Zulu comes to mind, there is a good 1980s TV series about that guy)? same thing, again...
 

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