Historical documents released by the British Foreign Office show how a secretive team of British civil servants funded Reuters and tried to influence the international media in the 1960s and 1970s according to unclassified documents unveiled Monday, The Hill reports.
The British government secretly funded Reuters at the direction of an anti-Soviet propaganda organization with links to MI-6.
The money was used to expand Reuters coverage of the Middle East and Latin America. The documents said that Reuters “could and would provide” what the government needed, though the government officials conceded that Reuters did not want to appear to be taking orders or money directly from the British government, so the government used the BBC to conceal funding in making payments to the international news group.
“We are now in a position to conclude an agreement providing discreet Government support for Reuters services in the Middle East and Latin America,” reads a 1969 redacted secret British government document entitled “Funding of Reuters by HMG,” or Her Majesty’s Government.
The document was declassified last year.
“HMG’s interests should be well served by the new arrangement,” it continues.
“Many news organisations received some form of state subsidy after World War Two,” David Crundwell, a spokesman for Reuters said.
“But the arrangement in 1969 was not in keeping with our Trust Principles and we would not do this today,” said Crundwell, referring to the Reuters Trust Principles, designed to preserve the news agency’s integrity, independence and freedom from bias.
Reuters Trust Principles, created in 1984, “is dedicated to upholding the Trust Principles and to preserving its independence, integrity, and freedom from bias in the gathering and dissemination of information and news,” according to the company’s web site.
Reuters was founded in 1851. Its parent company, Thompson Reuters, employs more than 25,000 people worldwide.
The BBC cited a similar charter regarding its editorial independence.
“The BBC charter guarantees editorial independence irrespective of whether funding comes from the UK government, the licence fee or commercial sources,” a BBC spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.