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    BBC Aiming to Expand in Russia to 'Counter Propaganda’ With More Gov’t Support

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    The BBC World Service is working to expand its projects and broadcasting in Russia, receiving additional funds from the UK government in the coming years, which becomes one more step in a continuous UK and NATO campaign to counter what is perceived to be "Russian propaganda," Sputnik has learned.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Earlier in September, the UK government replied to the House of Commons Defence Committee’s inquiry "Russia: Implications for UK defence and security," issued in July. The inquiry had a paragraph on countering so-called Russian propaganda, and the government replied that its work to "promote access to reliable information in Russian language" includes additional funding for the BBC World Service to enhance its Russian language output.

    More funds, no details

    "In September last year [2015] the Government announced a funding boost for the BBC World Service to expand and enhance our international services, for the next three years. As part of this, we’re planning that some of this additional funding will enrich our existing offer in a number of countries including Russia; we’re still working on the detailed plans," a BBC World Service communications officer told Sputnik, asked whether the outlet had already received funds and how they had been used.

    In November 2015, the UK government announced a funding boost for the BBC, which envisaged 34 million pounds ($44.3 million) for 2016-2017, followed by 85 million pounds a year or the next three years. It amounts to around a third of the BBC's current budget, according to the blog by Chair of BBC Global News Ltd Francesca Unsworth.

    Speaking on the BBC’s plans for the coming years, Unsworth claims that the government’s funding does not compromise the news outlet’s independence, and "firm guarantees" were given.

    The UK government, asked by Sputnik how much money had already been allocated and how the funds had been used so far, avoided giving any details and only repeated vague independence assurances.

    "The BBC World Service is independently developing proposals to enhance the service for its global audience. This includes expanding on its objective voice in the Russian language, which is consistent with the BBC World Service’s aim to provide independent, impartial and accurate news across the world," a Her Majesty Government spokesperson told Sputnik.

    Forcing figures to fit case

    However, the Defence Committee’s report on alleged threats coming from Russia was straightforward enough. "We are concerned that the UK and NATO do not yet have a fully-developed strategy to counter Russian propaganda and disinformation effectively," its paragraph 137 reads. It continues saying that NATO must substantially increase the level of resources which member states, including the United Kingdom, commit to fighting "Russian propaganda."

    The report claimed that RT and Sputnik media "had been used to spread propaganda," and that the government spent between $600 million and $1 billion annually on outlets like RT. However, the figures were not based on any real evidence and surprised editor-in-chief of the Sputnik news agency and the RT broadcaster Margarita Simonyan.

    The Rossiya Segodnya international media group that includes Sputnik has a budget of approximately 6 billion rubles (about $93 million) after a 10-percent expenditure cut in all publicly-funded Russian entities. RT's budget for 2016 stands at 17 billion rubles (about $262 million).

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova assumed, following the inquiry, that the UK authorities had been using the government report about the alleged information war against the United Kingdom by Sputnik news agency and RT broadcaster as a means to obtain additional budgetary resources for defense projects.

    Information warfare

    In continuation of the policy of countering so-called propaganda, the Atlantic Council, a think tank linked to NATO, issued a report in July "Arming for Deterrence: How Poland and NATO Should Counter a Resurgent Russia." It advised Poland to draw up a list of Russian targets, including RT broadcaster, for potential cyberattacks.

    In August, The Times newspaper, based in the United Kingdom, made its contribution to the anti-Russian "information warfare." It published seven articles containing discrediting information about Russian media outlets, including Sputnik news agency and the RT broadcaster, in particular commenting on the opening of Sputnik's offices and Russkiy Mir Foundation in the United Kingdom, and the coverage of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

    A number of Russian lawmakers from both chambers of the Russian parliament have said that The Times' articles were planned in advance as part of information war against Moscow.

    Developing pluralism and objectivity in the media remains an official Russia’s priority. Speaking at the "New Era of Journalism: Farewell to Mainstream" forum in June, Russian President Vladimir Putin said "there can be no situations where certain authorities like certain information, protecting it and talking about press freedom, but when they don't like it, they dismiss it as propaganda serving the interests of some political groups or specific countries."

    The Russian Foreign Ministry's Human Rights Ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov said at the same event that the Western public was being "brainwashed" by local media, and strove for an alternative news coverage.

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