Why shouldn't BBC have to register as a foreign agent?

  • The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is, as far as I know, a fully government-subsidized British TV channel. Does that not make it an arm of the British government? While some may point to its independence, the same is claimed for the US judiciary system. Yet no one claims that its independence makes the US judiciary something other than a branch of the government. The BBC is an entity which was founded by the British government, which is funded by the British government, and which at times (most notably during WWII) was a propaganda arm of the government.

    Since the Russian channel RT (formerly "Russia Today") was recently asked to register as a foreign agent, because it is owned by the Russian government, shouldn't the same be requested of the BBC? Is there any distinction?

    While it may be tempting to point to the fact that Russia is at odds (to put it mildly) with the US and GB is an ally, I don't think that British agents (of other branches of the GB government) are excused from registering as foreign agents. So what's different about BBC?

    The judiciary is independent *of the other two parts*, but it is still explicitly part of the USA government. "Independent" in the British (and Commonwealth) political sense means largely or entirely independent of any government involvement.

    It receives money from the government, that's not the same thing as government involvement.

    Wouldn't France 24 be a better analogy to Russia Today, than the BBC is?

    Getting funding from <> being explicitly controlled by. Comparing BBC to RT is an oversimplification, to say the least.

    For what it's worth, the same could also be argued for Al Jazeera with regard to Qatar.

    This just reminds me of how the Federal Reserve Banks are somehow "privately owned" even though the leaders of the Fed are selected by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate (not elected by a shareholder vote from all the commercial banks which supposedly "co-own" Federal Reserve Banks). One Congressman used to argue that the Federal Reserve Headquarters ought to pay property taxes just like any other privately owned corporate entity.

    Anybody have proof that RT is controlled in any way by the Russian government? Or are you just talking out of your ass?

    @dan-klasson See here#Propaganda_claims_and_related_issues). Also, please remember to Be Nice.

    @reirab: Where exactly in that Wikipedia is proof that RT is controlled by the Russian government? People are so used to being spoonfed with American propaganda so when they are presented with an alternative viewpoint they feel they need to label that as something evil.

    @dan-klasson: It looks like you have sufficient ground for asking a new question on Politics.SE or Skeptics.SE : "To what extend is RT controlled by the Russian government?". That will be a much better place to discuss the matter than the comments here.

    Google should also put a warning below BBC videos on YouTube warning that they are funded in part by the British government.

    @dan-klasson I agree, it only said "critics accused". I couldn't find any proof. I'm sure Putin just assassinates any journalists he doesn't like, but I couldn't find any proof. In fact, from one of the sources, "'Fox …you hate Americans. Glenn Beck, you hate Americans.' ... Forget the Obama administration, since when does Russia Today defend the policies of any American president?" Perhaps RT is controlled by the American government, according to these commenter's logic.

    If you are of the view that the BBC is owned (it isn't) and managed (it isn't) by the British government you should be aware that almost every UK government in the last fifty years has fought a war against the BBC. It is probably the present government';s most influential critic. Indeed people who want to protect the BBC from being reduced in size and scope, usually do so on the basis that it would be allowing the government to remove a thorn in its side. The BBC was constituted by Act of Parliament, and is funded by a licence fee which is levied on TV and radio receivers.

    Indeed, being mostly free of commercial sponsors (inside the UK), the BBC is one of the few truly "independent" broadcasters in the western world. It takes a centre-left position on most issues and the present UK Prime Minister hates it. It has been noted that in Britain, unlike the United States, where traditional religion has been in decline for decades, that for most in Britain the two worshipped icons of religion are the BBC and the National Health Service. Americans might do well to take a closer look at both of them.

  • The relevant US law is the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which covers agents who act "at the order, request, or under the direction or control" of a foreign power.

    Therefore, institutional and editorial independence is the key.

    If the UK Prime Minister tells (say) an employee of MI6 or the Foreign Office to do something, that person is required to either do it or resign.

    This is not so for the BBC. Even during the Second World War, the BBC maintained its editorial independence; this was a deliberate policy, as it was believed the BBC would be more trusted if it was seen to be independent rather than a direct mouthpiece for government.

    Instead of comparing the BBC to agencies under direct government control, a better analogy would be a university. British universities receive most of their funding from central government; but the Prime Minister is unable to sack university professors at will, and the mere fact of being a professor at (say) Oxford University does not make a person an agent of the British government in any meaningful sense.

    Of course, both the BBC and Oxford University are part of the British establishment, and for cultural reasons will tend to reflect the establishment consensus; but that is a different matter from being agencies under the control of the government of the day.

    @grovkin: Exactly the same would apply to a judge in the UK Supreme Court. It's highly doubtful that judges qualify as "foreign agents" within the meaning of the FARA. For example, a UK judge on sabbatical at a US university probably wouldn't have to register as a foreign agent.

    @RoyalCanadianBandit hmm, that's actually kind of weird to think about. What actually counts as being part of the foreign power? Although the prime minister can't tell a UK judge what to do, surely the UK judge could "order or control" him or her self.

    While they tend to reflect the establishment consensus , it's precisely the times when they chose not to reflect the consensus that it's critical they be allowed to do so.

    While this answers the first part of the question, it does not answer why RT is required to register as a foreign agent, since everything concerning the BBC in this answer does apply to RT as well

    @grovkin Having three seperate, independent branches of government (judicative, executive, legislative) is the foundation of *any* modern democratic government. That doesn't apply to government funding of certain entities, though. If getting subsidies is enough to be a foreign agent, then almost anything and anoyone would be a foreign agent (even your friendly neighbour cattle farmer).

    @grovkin - "If the US President ... directs a member of the Supreme Court to rule in a certain way ...". If "directs" includes a case where a US President "asks" (or directs someone else to "ask") a member of the Supreme Court to rule in a certain way while making it clear that it is in the best interest (financial, safety, privacy, etc) of the Supreme Court member to rule that way, then I'm sure it has at various times already happened... just part of politics and human nature. Independent, officially yes. But that does not mean one cannot influence or even coerce the other.

    @KevinFegan that actually happens, via proxy, on a regular basis. Every time a federal attorney representing the U.S. Department of Justice is involved in a case being adjudicated by the U.S. Supreme Court, they are essentially directing the Court to rule a certain way on behalf of the Secretary of Justice and the President. Whether the Justices respect the attorney's request is another issue, and one that we (in the U.S.) eagerly anticipate whenever the Court releases their judgments and opinion documents each year.

    I think substantiating the claim "BBC has editorial independence" by linking to documents from the BBC themselves is questionable.

    @DrCopyPaste: I very much doubt the BBC has posted incorrect information about its own governing structures. *Informal* channels of influence are very difficult to prove or disprove; but *formally* speaking, the BBC has editorial independence from the UK government.

    @RoyalCanadianBandit I agree and am not in much doubt about that either, but I just find it a weak source. Granted, this is not skeptics.se but I just find the line of reasoning ... ("I am trustworthy." - "Why should I believe that?" - "Because I say so.")... weird.

    @grovkin - "the distinction between executive which "directs" a court to rule and which "asks" a court to rule (by arguing in front of the court) ..." I think you must have read the first part of my comment and missed the rest because your response misses my point. I'm not talking about a case in front of the court. I'm talking about a 1-on-1 private communication. If a President "Instructs" a Supreme Court Judge to vote a certain way, it is nothing more than "asking" as Judge can act on his own. But add "reward/coercion" to that and it is something else. Please re-read my previous comment.

    How is the editorial structure of RT different from that of the BBC? Because this answer does not discuss RT, it answer does not answer the question "what's different about BBC?"

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM