Amongst the many issues of flagrant bias of which the BBC is guilty is that of the European Union whose integrationist cause its minions slavishly support at every turn – only the other day I heard a Radio 5 Live presenter snort with derision when someone dared to suggest we should leave the EU: “It’s far too late for that!”.
There has for some considerable time been a deeply poisonous relationship between the BBC and the European Investment Bank (EIB) which has seen the former borrowing huge sums from the latter, a matter upon which my colleague Dr Helen Szamuely at EU Referendum reported back in 2006 and as Dr. Richard North has also reminded us in the wee hours of today.
The issue raises its ugly head again with the reporting by The Sunday Times of the totality of the position which has been revealed in a letter from Zarin Patel, the BBC’s finance director, to Bob Spink, a Conservative MP.
Putting all the pieces together we can see the following:
May 2002: The BBC received € 40,400,776. According to the EIB this was for ‘Co-production of television programmes’. The Sunday Times report suggests, however, that it was to pay for the acquisition of overseas rights to programmes made by the BBC in the UK. This does not square with the official reason given, as above, by the EIB.
March 2003: The BBC received € 96,463,023. This, the EIB states on its website, was for the construction of a BBC digital broadcasting centre in London This new building in the BBC’s Media Village development in West London, was later sold for a profit which rather begs the question as to whether the BBC really needed this centre or whther the aim all along was a purely commercial one. It also provokes the thought that this profit was applied back to general BBC purposes, which of course, include news broadcasting, something which Mark Thompson, said, back in 2006, could never happen.
November 2006: The BBC received € 74,794,316. The EIB gives the official reason for this loan as “Production of new BBC programmes” though again The Sunday Times has it as “to pay for the acquisition of overseas rights to programmes made by the BBC in the UK.” Again this not what the EIB says the loan was for.
This makes for a total indebtedness over the last six years to the EIB on the part of the BBC of € 211,658115 (which is £ 157,132,973 at today’s rate of exchange €1.34 = £1 for which my source is the BBC Business site). This, even by the standards of today when many billions of pounds can be used to prop up Northern Rock, is a substantial amount of money and represents 5% of the BBC’s £3.1 billion budget, so it is not an amount to be sneezed at.
Now this raises a strong suspicion that the BBC’s well-known and well-documented bias towards all things to do with the EU is keenly supported by the EU itself. So what is the BBC’s explanation for all this:
A BBC spokesman denied any pro-Brussels bias: “There were no editorial obligations whatsoever attached to the three EIB loans. The BBC’s commercial businesses go to the European Investment Bank as opposed to any other commercial bank for purely commercial reasons.”
Well, that is as maybe, but then perhaps it might be wise to see the matter through the eyes of the EIB and more particularly how and why it feels able to offer such commercially competitive loans.
In the first place let us look at the some of the terms of the EIB Mission Statement:
Our Mission is to further the objectives of the European Union by making long-term finance available for sound investment.
We are at the service of the Union.
We were created by the Treaty of Rome; our shareholders are the Member States; and our Board of Governors is composed of the Finance Ministers of these States.
We offer first-class terms and conditions.
Our financial soundness derives from the strength and commitment of our shareholders, the independence of our professional judgements and our record of achievement. It enables us to borrow at the finest terms, which we pass on in our lending conditions.
We work in partnership with others.
Our policies are established in close coordination with the Member States and the other Institutions of the European Union. We also cooperate closely with the business and banking sectors and the main international organisations in our field.
I have highlighted several features of the EIB’s objectives which, on any reasonable view, demonstrate how the relationship of the BBC with the EIB is an unacceptable one. In short the EIB is furthering the aims, which as we know are integrationist and federalist, of the European Union and must therefore consider that by lending to the BBC those aims are being furthered. That fact alone makes the relationship an unacceptable one in a broadcasting institution which is supposed to be impartial.
Again the EIB says this of its activities:
The operational strategy of the Bank is:
- To finance viable capital projects which further EU objectives
- To borrow on the capital markets to finance these projects
Let us then look at how the EIB saw its loan to the BBC in 2002:
The European Investment Bank finances capital investment furthering EU integration
You could not have a clearer set of admissions as to the real purpose of this loan, which is designed to further a political objective which is opposed by the British people and to which the British people have never been asked nor given their whole-hearted consent.
Then there is Article 267 of the Treaty of Lisbon which sets out the purpose which the Bank is to serve:
The task of the European Investment Bank shall be to contribute, by having recourse to the capital market and utilising its own resources, to the balanced and steady development of the internal market in the interest of the Union. For this purpose the Bank shall, operating on a non-profit-making basis, grant loans and give guarantees which facilitate the financing of the following projects in all sectors of the economy.
One can make the point, in passing, that by being a highly favoured partner of the EU the BBC is enabled to have access to what are, on the face of it, cheap loans: one is bound to ask if this is giving the BBC a highly unfair advantage as against its commercial rivals in the UK and Worldwide? It is, I suggest, noteworthy in this context that the BBC refuses to disclose what the commercial basis for these loans is.
Let us then look at the Statute of the Bank:
In its loan and guarantee operations, the Bank shall observe the following
1. It shall ensure that its funds are employed as rationally as possible in the interests of the Community.
It may grant loans or guarantees only:
a) where, in the case of projects carried out by undertakings in the production sector, interest and amortization payments are covered out of operating profits or, in other cases, either by a commitment entered into by the State in which the project is carried out or by some other means; and
b) where the execution of the project contributes to an increase in economic productivity in general and promotes the attainment of the common market.
It is clear, you may think, that the BBC is therefore engaging entirely in the promotion of a political objective of the EU. Certainly that is what the EU & EIB think they are doing.That is in clear breach of its duty of impartiality.
Given what we know of the BBC’s attitude towards the EU, which is to support it at every turn, it comes as no surprise that it is singled out for the generosity and largesse of the EU’s own investment bank. And these are huge loans which have been utilised to further the BBC’s commercial mission in the world. In addition there do not have to be any ‘editorial obligations’ attached to such loans for the BBC well knows that it is unwise to bite the hand that feeds it.
Let me then pose another question: if the BBC was institutionally hostile to the EU, would it receive loans of this size from the EIB? The answer is ‘no’.
Even if, which I do not believe, there is no relationship between the BBC’s editorial views and the fact that it gets enormous loans from the EU, do not these transactions fail the second part of the test “creates or gives the appearance of creating a conflict of interest”? If so they are loans which should not have been undertaken by the BBC.
We should now be told, in the interests of transparency, what were the terms of these transactions and whether they were genuinely commercial and in the meantime, in the interests of impartiality and the appearance of impartiality, these loans should be repaid and none further entered into with the EU.