Back in March, the BBC aired an alarmist pro-EU film called ‘The Great EU Disaster Movie’. With an election only weeks away in which our relationship with the EU was a major issue, it was an outrageous decision for our state broadcaster to air such a piece of political propaganda.
There was another aspect of the story: who had funded this film? Had the production company received any EU money? UKIP, among others, suggested that it had.
At the time, the BBC firmly denied that was the case:
“No EU money was used in the making of the programme being aired on the BBC. Impartiality is of paramount importance for the BBC. This fictional programme reflects the author’s vision. BBC editorial guidelines do not prevent the acquisition of independent programmes which approach subjects from a particular perspective.”
They couldn’t have been much clearer, so that was as far as the row went (incidentally, I eagerly await the BBC’s decision to acquire a film presenting a future outside the EU in a rosy light…).
Today we have some more information. The TaxPayers’ Alliance has published an investigation into ‘Creative Europe’, an EU Commission project which hands out grants of taxpayers’ money to specific television productions. Lo and behold, the TPA report includes a grant of €96,991 (£70,975) to a project which was then titled ‘Who do you think EU are?’.
The relevant file on the Creative Europe website shows this money being given to Springshot Productions for ‘TV programming support’ for a show which was meant to be set in a dystopian future in the year 2060, where a British archaeologist played by Eddie Izzard would lay out why it was a disaster that the EU had fallen apart. Given that the eventual show was made by Springshot Productions and starred Angus Deayton as a British archaeologist in a dystopian future laying out why it was a disaster that the EU had fallen apart, this is clearly the same film.
So in fact the project did receive EU Commission funding after all.
This raises some obvious questions:
1) Did the BBC know about this funding but lie to the public?
2) If they did not know about this funding, had they simply failed to check with the production company before issuing the denial?
3) If they did check with the production company, did Springshot Productions fail to inform them of this funding when asked?
Interestingly, at the time of broadcast, the film’s executive producer - Bill Emmott, the former editor of The Economist - tweeted that the production company had received “EU top-up [funding] for language versions”.
Even if this cash referred to by Emmott is the same as that given by Creative Europe, that wouldn’t make the issue go away. It’s clear from the Creative Europe documents that the grant was made at a point when the project was still under development. The title and various elements of the plot were not finalised, and the pencilled-in star (Izzard) wasn’t in the final production. The EU’s money helped to fund this project – and the BBC later claimed that it hadn’t.
I’ve asked the BBC Press Office, Emmott and the film’s director, Annalisa Piras, on Twitter how this untruth came to be uttered by the Corporation – I will be very interested to find out their answer.
As ever with such outfits, the plot thickens when one digs into their work. This film isn’t the only project on which Emmott and Piras work closely.
‘a civic education course for schools and universities based on a documentary about the European Union, to be made during 2014/15 by Piras’s Springshot Productions. Following public broadcast of the film, the intention is that the Foundation would take over the educational rights to the film material, in order to produce this course.’
I wonder which film they could have in mind for their ‘education’ course. I also wonder whether the Wake Up Foundation receives any EU funding – I’ve asked Emmott and Piras that, too.
Coincidentally, one of their fellow trustees at the WUF is Richard Sambrook, former Director of BBC News. Just as coincidentally, Sambrook is now Director of the Cardiff University School of Journalism, which in 2012 was commissioned by the BBC to analyse the Corporation’s content for evidence of political bias on the EU (ridiculously, that analysis claimed the BBC was biased against the EU - and its methodology was then torn to shreds by Civitas last year). What a small world pro-EU propagandists inhabit.