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BBC bosses insist funding from EU does not compromise impartiality

By PA Mediapoint

BBC bosses have dismissed claims the corporation is obliged not to do anything to harm the European Union.

MPs were told that £35m from the EU is put into an offshoot unit run by the BBC that provides broadcasting training in volatile overseas states and other money is "occasionally available".

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested the funding would hamper the BBC's ability to report on the upcoming referendum on Britain's future in the EU impartially.

But David Jordan, director of editorial policy and standards, rejected the claims.

"The BBC as a public service broadcast doesn't take money from the EU," he told the European Scrutiny Committee.

He told MPs that £35m had been put into Media Action, a unit owned by BBC but run independently, which is involved in countries like Afghanistan to develop news and broadcasting skills.

Pressed further about the funds available from the EU, Jordan told MPs: "There is another way in which EU funding comes into the picture and that is in relation to independent companies who, as you know, make programmes for the BBC.

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"In some areas independent companies for example in drama may benefit from EU funds to, for example, help location incentives to go to particular parts of the country."

He added: "There are also a couple of budgets which are available for people to do things like, for example, reversion programmes that they have made in English so that they are showable in different European countries around the world."

Rees-Mogg said: "You are now giving me a really different answer from the one you gave before."

He added: "You gave an answer about overseas aid and now you are saying the BBC does receive money to help with some of its programming and does receive money to translate some of its programming and you are therefore signed up to the contractual agreements from the EU that require you not to damage its interests."

Jordan said "other funds are occasionally available" for programming, something the Tory MP claimed the editorial director had initially "denied".

The clash prompted committee chairman Bill Cash to repeatedly call for order, adding "can we just calm down a bit".

James Harding (pictured), director of news and current affairs, said: "What is absolutely clear is that the funding for Media Action, as it performs those charitable functions, is entirely separate from the BBC and from BBC News.

"In the same way that the British government funding for those services is separate, so is EU funding. So, I don't want there to be a misunderstanding about that particular unit, which is Media Action. It is separate from BBC News, in fact it is separate from everything we do as a public service broadcaster in the UK."

The committee was also told that BBC journalists will undergo mandatory training in the run-up to the referendum to ensure they report on the poll impartially.

Coverage guidelines are likely to be to be put out to public consultation early next year, MPs were told.

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