BBC recently ran into controversy in India over its two-part documentary ‘India: The Modi Question” on the role of then Chief Minister of Gujarat and now Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi in the 2002 Godhra riots.
The Indian government has criticized a BBC documentary. Foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said India: The Modi Question lacked objectivity and was propaganda.
The Indian government took a firm stand the ensure a curb on the documentary online, particularly on social media and YouTube.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani attacked BBC and accused it of receiving funds from Chinese state-linked Huawei outside the United Kingdom.
He tweeted: Why is #BBC so anti-India? Because it needs money desperately enough to take it from Chinese state-linked Huawei & pursue the latter’s agenda (BBC a fellow traveller, Comrade Jairam?)It’s a simple cash-for-propaganda deal. BBC is up for sale,” Jethmalani tweeted.
Jethmalini appears to have touched on a raw nerve on the links between BBC and China.
It is interesting to note that StoryWorks a division of the BBC was established in 2015. It was positioned to be a commercial content studio with newsroom values.
In a report published by Deadline, BBC StoryWorks has partnered with at least 18 Chinese clients since 2015, including nine-affiliated state-affiliated bodies.
BBC StoryWorks has produced tourism campaigns for state-owned media outlets, including partnering with China Global Television Network (CGTN) after it was banned from broadcasting in the UK.
StoryWorks has won contracts from at least 18 organizations in China, according to our social media analysis, Deadline reported elucidated, which does not include deals that have not been publicly declared. Based on social media activity alone, China was StoryWorks’ third largest territory by the number of clients, behind only the U.S. and UK. The BBC disputed this and said China only accounts for a small proportion of its customers.
Among the Chinese brands who have partnered with StoryWorks are Alibaba, China’s equivalent of Amazon; Lenovo, the consumer electronics giant; telecoms company Tecno Mobile; and Roborock, a maker of robot vacuum cleaners.
It is important to note that one of BBC StoryWorks’ main clients in China is Huawei. It has been one of BBC StoryWorks’ most consistent customers, producing several campaigns for the tech giant since 2016 despite the fact that the Chinese tech firm is being sanctioned by U.S. and UK authorities amid national security fears.
Security concerns over the Huawei controversy globally were based on an Investigative Report on the U.S. National Security Issues Posed by Chinese Telecommunications Companies Huawei and ZTE. ZTE also has a presence in the Indian telecom sector. The report on Chinese Companies was released on 8.10.2012. It recommended that sensitive U.S. government systems should not include Huawei or ZTE equipment or component parts. It also recommended that contractors working on sensitive US Programs should not include equipment manufactured by ZTE or Huawei in their systems.
The founder of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, was a director of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Information Engineering Academy, which was associated with PLA’s signals intelligence division.
Huawei was part of an ambitious project in the field of technology launched by the PLA – labeled as ‘Project 863’ as it was started in March month of the year 1986. In 1986 four Chinese Scientists Wang Daheng, Wang Ganchang, Yang Jiachi, and Chen Fangyun submitted a proposal to the Chinese Government to start a Project to give a boost to technology in China. After approval by Chinese leader Den Xiaoping, Government accepted the Project and included it in the next three five-year plans.
Jethmalini in his tweet referred to an article in the Spectator. The article in the Spectator revealed: One of them is with Huawei, the Chinese tech giant which was sanctioned by the US in 2019 and barred from the UK’s 5G network in 2020 over security concerns. Since then, the controversial company has been alleged to have aided the Chinese authorities in creating surveillance technology that targets the country’s Uyghur minority population. But all that’s not enough to deter the BBC, which is still taking Huawei’s money to fund its overseas journalism. Adverts displayed on BBC.com this week show adverts paid and presented by Huawei boasting about ‘The new frontier of education: How can we bridge the education gap and bring bright young minds into the digital future?’ The adverts gush how ‘UNESCO and Huawei are focused on closing the digital divide’ and writes glowingly about Huawei’s tech initiatives. Such content though is only available to overseas readers as UK visitors to the site are greeted with a message which says ‘We’re Sorry! This site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee.’
The Spectator article further revealed: “A BBC Studios spokesman said: ‘Outside of the UK, BBC.com – the BBC’s international news and sport website – is funded through advertising. This allows us to invest in our world-class journalism and bring it to a global audience. All commercial content must adhere to our advertising and sponsorship guidelines, which are publicly available.’ The Corporation did not respond to further questions and refused to say how much money it has made from the partnership with Huawei.”
Buzzfeed reported in 2019 that Huawei and BBC StoryWorks began posting content to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, beginning with a five-minute video introducing the company. The report further revealed: “The description from Huawei read: “BBC StoryWorks brings you the real story of #Huawei Founder & CEO #RenZhengfei. It’s a 30-year journey marked with many #challenges and culminating in the company’s transformation into a global tech leader.” The same message was shared on Huawei’s YouTube channel, and the company also bought advertising on Twitter to ensure the video found its way into the timelines of Twitter users.
The video shows a series of people delivering gushing testimonials about Huawei and the company’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei, backed by what sounds like Hans Zimmer’s score from the 2010 film Inception.
It ends with a call to visit WhoIsHuawei.com and the Huawei logo alongside the BBC’s StoryWorks logo against a black background.
The WhoIsHuawei.com link redirects to a site at BBC.com, which is geo-blocked to UK IP addresses.”
Interestingly, former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had ordered all Huawei technology to be stripped out of the UK’s 5G network by 2027. He also banned the purchase of any new 5G equipment from the Chinese tech giant from the end of this year.