The BBC's (Funded by the Kremlin Downing Street) Three-Step Guide to Making Boring Propaganda

Murad Gazdiev
Murad Gazdiev, RT correspondent who has reported from a number of hot spots around the globe, including from the Syria-Turkish border, Yemen and Eastern Ukraine. He has also covered major international events, including Davos and the St. Petersburg economic forums, and even made a tour of duty with the crew of the Russian destroyer class Admiral Levchenko as it carried a military unit from the core base of Russia's Northern Fleet in Severomorsk to an unused former-Soviet base in the White Sea.
© Paul Hackett
Just two decades ago - you could count the number of international TV news networks on one hand. Today, there's a virtual buffet of opinionated global news outlets to suit almost any appetite... pick your prejudice, and you've likely got a channel that's just tailored to your bias.

Most don't make much of a secret of it - but one has stood apart. The BBC. Impartial, unbiased and reliable.

Its style has always been cold, hard news; delivered in laconic, no-frills reports filled with facts, attributions and - well...not much else.

On air - voiced always in an almost-drawling presenters voice, lacking any emotion or expression. Indeed, BBC reports, or 'packages' as they're called have a particular brand to them. Reporters speak slowly, drag things out and enunciate random vowels seemingly just for the hell of it.

The intent is simple: get the facts across with minimal personal input. And that is what earned the BBC a stellar reputation world-wide over the years.

A reputation that the BBC of today seems to be decidedly set on demolishing, and judging by how quickly they're blowing the charges on the pillars of the BBC's reputation: the senior management appears to have set a no-nonsense deadline.
What really pushed me to start looking into the whole thing was an article published on the BBC - after reading which I had to double-check the URL to make sure I wasn't on some spoof site.

Turns out I wasn't. I had stumbled upon, by all appearances, a crude hatchet job. What's worse - it was bad. The only thing worse than finding outright propaganda on the BBC is finding bad outright propaganda.

Go ahead, have a read and come back.

Back? Then let's get to it.

First off, the very phrase "information war" is pathetic - no matter how often CNN, BBC and assorted internet joints stuff that click-bait phrase into their headlines. You don't call a friendly argument between two mates in the pub a "banter war". You don't call a debate between two politicians a "political views deliberation war". Why then call coverage by opposing broadcasters an "information war"?

Was there a declaration of information war? What are the casualties? Is Sally from the translators department recovering from that horrific incident where she broke a nail while typing out Merkel's speech about the Ukrainian civil war?

The article opens by stating that "the Kremlin has been busily striving to win hearts and minds around the world mainly through its flagship international broadcaster RT."

And what better way to win "hearts and minds" than by launching a global news network that focuses on controversial issues that are bound to alienate a major part, if not the majority of the mainstream audience (Libya intervention criticism), covering issues that aren't popular or particularly interesting (fracking), giving air time to underdogs and "outcasts" (Jeremy Corbyn, Yanis Varoufakis).

Come to think of it, that's sounds like a hell of a strategy to annoy hearts and minds.

The article went on to say that in 2015 "Russia significantly increased its spending on RT. The channel's budget rose 75 percent, to 20.8 billion rubles (around £202 million; $300 million)."

First off, that's misleading to the point of deception.

RT broadcasts abroad. That means we don't pay for our spot on Britain's Sky Cable in rubles. We pay in the pounds sterling - and that got a lot more expensive with the rubles collapse.

In fact, 80 percent of RT's expenditure is in foreign currency. In dollars, RT's budget has decreased from ~$400 million (average 2014 exchange rate), to $300 million in 2015 (as of today's exchange rate) despite the funding bump.

It's actually more complicated thanks to the rubles roller-coaster adventures, but accounting tells me that all-in-all our budget is down almost a quarter in dollars.

In effect, RT's real, practical budget - has fallen, not risen.

You'd think that might be worth mentioning in a section dedicated to RT's funding, right? I think there's even a word for it: balance.

And still, it gets better... or worse, depending on how seriously you take the article...

"More than any of the other big international broadcasters, RT depends for its large number of views on disaster/novelty videos with little or no input from its journalists," the BBC article declares.

When comparing RT to "other big international broadcasters,” Stephen Ennis would be advised to actually check what "other big international broadcasters" post.

CNN's YouTube account for example seems to place its bet on cat videos, Obama bloopers and celebrity shenanigans. As well as disaster videos. With little to no input from its journalists. Oops.

The BBC itself isn't far behind. Its top ten videos feature such fine examples of hard-hitting journalism as: a spider crawling around on a camera lens, a go-pro strapped to an eagle and an in depth package showing Justin Bieber and Elmo going through the ice-bucket challenge.

But since we're talking about it: The BBC's radio and online budget alone is bigger than RT's entire annual budget. And still, the BBC is eating dust on YouTube.

I hope by this stage the reader appreciates how pathetic this looks: global news outlets trawling through each others YouTube accounts in an effort to belittle their achievements. "Information War" indeed. More like a teenage penis measuring contest.

Ennis goes on to say that "Only a handful of its top 100 videos can even loosely be described as "political" and none of them refers to the crisis in Ukraine."

Now that was just lazy, Steve. Here it is, right there in our top 100.

And here is the description: Disturbing footage from Ukraine shows violence spiraling out of control during anti-government protests, with rioters attacking and capturing policemen standing their ground. The Interior Ministry has hinted at a tough response if the unrest continues.

At RT, we don't believe in supervising every video with agenda-driven commentary. There's enough of that around. Some videos are self-explanatory, and the viewer is free to make up his own mind.

The BBC article goes on to say that "Latvia and Lithuania have responded to the challenge posed by Russian TV by tightening media regulations and even temporarily banning some channels."

Of everything in the article - it's the language in this bit that irked me the most. It exemplifies how far BBC standards on impartiality have fallen.

When Latvia and Lithuania - both EU states - ban Russian news channels and expel Russian journalists - they're said to be "responding to the challenge.”

Now, just imagine: Russia kicks out a Western news channel. It expels journalists by force. You don't need to be clairvoyant to guess at the headlines. One thing's for sure: it wouldn't be "Russia responding to the challenge.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.