THE BBC was today branded the “EU Broadcasting Corporation” after it emerged it has pocketed millions of pounds of undeclared European Union cash over the last three years.
Questions are raging over how the BBC can maintain the impartiality of its Brexit coverage at the same time as pocketing jaw-dropping sums of cash from Eurocrats in Brussels.
The Beeb has raked in more than £300,000 worth of EU grants since the referendum alone, with the money being paid out for “research projects” carried out by BBC staff.
Critics today blasted the astonishing payments and accused the public broadcaster of being “greedy” for EU cash despite receiving billions a year from UK taxpayers. The BBC insisted the cash has “no influence” on the editorial content of its news programmes.
The row blew up after it emerged that Brussels has agreed to hand £352,750 to the taxpayer-funded broadcaster for its role in a research project.
‘Multidrone’ is described as an “innovative, intelligent, multi-drone platform for media production to cover outdoor events, which are typically held over wide areas”.
Costing £5.3 million, the project is being coordinated by the University of Bristol, who have been awarded a whopping £1,207,518 grant to carry out the research.
But the Beeb has also been awarded a share of the funding, sparking furious complaints from Leave voters who claim the funding is a conflict of interest which may influence the way the broadcaster covers Brexit.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen fumed: “It beggars belief that the BBC hasn’t declared this funding, instead saying people should ask the EU. It’s far from transparent.
“They already get about £4billion of taxpayers’ money each year. It seems astonishingly greedy for them to be sniffing around for this extra cash.
“If they’re taking any funds from outside the UK they need to declare it, otherwise it’s a clear conflict of interest.
“They are still the British Broadcasting Corporation. Sometimes I think they might have become the EU Broadcasting Corporation, especially given some of their hopelessly biased content.”
He added: “The BBC has a pro-EU leaning. But the fact they refuse to declare this money they’ve had pre- and post-referendum only raises further suspicions. It runs to millions and millions of pounds.
“The BBC is a publicly-funded body and should have the transparency it demands from other entities.
“If I were taking money from a foreign donor, that would be illegal. And yet the BBC can get away with it.”
The Multidrone project, part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 initiative, is one of five similar EU-backed projects the BBC is involved in.
Although the broadcaster has not publicly declared the funding, all cash received by the Beeb is available to view on the EU website.
A BBC spokesperson said: “Details of funding are published by the EU for all to see.
“We have strict rules in place to ensure that any external funding we receive does not comprise our editorial impartiality or integrity – and BBC News does not receive any grant funding from the EU.
“This funding is for a Research and Development project co-ordinated by Bristol University looking at the use of drones for media production to cover outdoor events – and it will benefit the wider industry.