The use of elite media as agents of propaganda

Some media outlets are better than others when it comes to providing news but we should be alert that because of their reputations they are sometimes co-opted to promote propaganda. Max Blumenthal writes about recently leaked documents that claim that Reuters and the BBC seemed to be willing to work covertly with the British government in advancing its propaganda goals.

The new leaks illustrate in alarming detail how Reuters and the BBC – two of the largest and most distinguished news organizations in the world – attempted to answer the British foreign ministry’s call for help in improving its “ability to respond and to promote our message across Russia,” and to “counter the Russian government’s narrative.” Among the UK FCO’s stated goals, according to the director of the CDMD, was to “weaken the Russian State’s influence on its near neighbours.”

Reuters and the BBC solicited multimillion-dollar contracts to advance the British state’s interventionist aims, promising to cultivate Russian journalists through FCO-funded tours and training sessions, establish influence networks in and around Russia, and promote pro-NATO narratives in Russian-speaking regions.

In several proposals to the British Foreign Office, Reuters boasted of a global influence network of 15,000 journalists and staff, including 400 inside Russia.

The UK FCO projects were carried out covertly, and in partnership with purportedly independent, high-profile online media outfits including Bellingcat, Meduza, and the Pussy Riot-founded Mediazona. Bellingcat’s participation apparently included a UK FCO intervention in North Macedonia’s 2019 elections on behalf of the pro-NATO candidate.

A series of official documents declassified in January 2020 revealed that Reuters was secretly funded by the British government throughout the 1960s and 1970s to assist an anti-Soviet propaganda organization run by the MI6 intelligence agency. The UK government used the BBC as a pass-through to conceal payments to the news group.

The revelation prompted a Reuters spokesman to declare that “the arrangement in 1969 [with the MI6] was not in keeping with our Trust Principles and we would not do this today.”

A lot of these things, like with the abuses of the CIA, FBI, and NSA, only come to light long after the fact and that enables these organizations to claim that they regretted those ‘past’ actions, have reformed themselves, and that they don’t do these things now. And then we have a new cycle of revelations.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Don’t forget that Max Blumenthal works overtly with the Russian government in advancing its propaganda goals:

    Blumenthal is a regular contributor to Sputnik and RT.

    Actual honest independent journalism has become precariously rare.

  2. Dunc says

    Anybody’s who’s surprised that the British state-owned broadcaster is used as a tool of the British state should urgently contact me about a very attractive real estate deal I can offer them.

    Pierce R. Butler, @1:

    Actual honest independent journalism has become precariously rare.

    I think it would be more accurate to say that it has probably never existed.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Dunc @ # 3: … it has probably never existed.

    Oh, it has here and there: consider Ida Wells Barnett, Lincoln Steffens, I.F. Stone, Edward R. Murrow, George Polk…

  4. sonofrojblake says

    @Dunc, 3:

    the British state-owned broadcaster

    Nope, not got one of those. The government doesn’t own it, doesn’t finance it, doesn’t have direct editorial control over it. Not denying the existence of likely shady backroom dealings, but it’s absolutely not a direct mouthpiece of the state as implied by the monicker “state-owned”.

  5. Dunc says

    sonofrojblake, @4: You’re confusing the state and the government. The BBC is not directly controlled by the government, true, but as a statutory corporation operating under a Royal Charter, it is very definitely part of the state. (I’m not going to argue about whether the relationship should properly be described as ownership.)

    I very much doubt that there are any “shady backroom dealings” -- we’ve always been very careful to ensure that the organisation is run by what you might call “the right sort of people” (for certain values of “right”), so there’s absolutely no need for anything so crass or inelegant. I am also quite certain that everybody involved genuinely believes themselves to be the very model of independence and impartiality -- that’s what makes them such good propagandists.

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