BBC Granted £4.1 Million Extra Funding to Counter ‘Disinformation’ on Ukraine War

BBC Granted £4.1 Million Extra Funding to Counter ‘Disinformation’ on Ukraine War
BBC Broadcasting House in London on Jan. 21, 2020. (Ian West/PA Media)
Lily Zhou

The BBC World Service will receive more than £4 million extra government funding to support its Ukrainian and Russian language services and help counter “disinformation” about the war in Ukraine.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) and the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) on Wednesday confirmed the £4.1 million ($5.41 million) in emergency funding following a request from the BBC to “cover urgent and unexpected costs that have arisen” as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The DCMS and FCDO said the funding will help the public broadcaster to relocate staff and operations to safe locations so they can continue to reach their audiences and Russia and Ukraine.

The funding will also be used to “continue expanding new and more widely accessible content, delivered through a range of channels, to tackle disinformation and to help local audiences circumvent the Kremlin’s media restrictions and continue to access the BBC’s journalism.”

Earlier this month, the broadcaster said BBC World News had been taken off air in Russia.

Russian authorities have been restricting access to foreign and independent media outlets, including the main BBC websites, as the country continues its invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow’s Parliament recently passed a law making it a criminal offence punishable by up to 15 years in prison to spread “fake” or “false” news about the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, prompting the BBC to temporarily suspend the work of all its news journalists and support staff in Russia.

The BBC said its news coverage in Russia has now resumed.

Drawing parallels between the current war and World War II, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “In scenes reminiscent of 80 years ago, the BBC will ensure that audiences in the region can continue to access independent news reporting in the face of systemic propaganda from a dictator waging war on European soil.

“It’s vital we lift the veil on and expose the barbaric actions of Putin’s forces,” Dorries said.

James Cleverly, minister for Europe and North America at the FCDO, said the UK is “calling out Putin’s lies and exposing his propaganda and fake news.”

“This new funding will help strengthen the BBC’s impartial voice in Russia and Ukraine, which is critical to counter Russian disinformation and will help ensure we win the battle for the airwaves,” he said.

BBC Director-General Tim Davie welcomed the news, saying he is “hugely proud” of the BBC’s war coverage and his colleagues’ “bravery and resilience.”

Davie said the public broadcaster had “seen a big demand for clear, fact-based, impartial journalism to counter disinformation” and it will work “around the clock to bring people the very best independent journalism.”

“This funding will also help us with the immediate need to support staff who have been displaced, many of whom are continuing to work and provide vital expertise to the whole of the BBC, while life changes dramatically around them. We pay tribute to their incredible strength and professionalism,” he said.

Earlier this month, U.S. journalist and filmmaker Brent Renaud and Fox News photojournalist Pierre Zakrzewski were killed in Ukraine, while Fox News correspondent, British journalist Benjamin Hall was severely injured.

Marina Ovsyannikova, an employee of Russian state television, was fined and is facing a possible prison sentence after protesting on-air against the invasion.
PA Media contributed to this report.