Foreign Secretary gives BBC £8m to tackle disinformation around the world

Tom Horton, PA

The BBC World Service has been given £8 million funding to help tackle disinformation and inaccurate news reporting around the globe, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced.

The money will be used to support investigative journalism by the BBC World Service and improve digital engagement with the broadcaster’s reporting overseas.

The move follows the success of programmes including Reality Check, Africa Eye and Arabic Investigations, according to a statement from the Foreign Office.

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Raab said: “In a world where states and criminal gangs twist the news to exploit others, it is vital to safeguard independent and objective news reporting around the world.

“This new funding will allow the BBC World Service to take impartial journalism to many more people around the world, by countering those who distort the truth to mislead the public.”

Some states are “using internet bots to push out disinformation on social media platforms, such as spreading fake news around the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in harmful content, that is often shared widely by tens of thousands of people on social media”, the Foreign Office statement said.

The £8 million consists of £3 million to tackle disinformation and £5 million to expand the BBC’s reach and digital engagement.

The money comes on top of previous funding for the BBC’s World2020 programme, which was launched in 2016 and aims to expand the BBC’s global reach.

BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “We welcome the investment in the World Service which builds on the significant results achieved since the funding programme began in 2016.

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Tim Davie (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Through this partnership, the World Service has achieved an all-time record audience of 351 million, in 42 languages including English, with the BBC’s global news services now reaching 438 million every week.

“More than a third of the total BBC News global audience – 151 million – access BBC News digitally and this additional support will enable us to further strengthen our digital offer and tackle global disinformation.

“As the world continues to fight the Covid pandemic, the positive role of the World Service in providing trusted, impartial news has never been more critical.”