Tue 29 Oct, 2019

Ross Greer MSP

West of Scotland
External Affairs, Education & Skills, Culture & Media

Website

For some time now I have been campaigning on the issue of so-called 'think tanks’ whose spokespeople regularly appear on the BBC to promote hard-right & libertarian policies including NHS privatisation and the repeal of workers’ rights, environmental & consumer protections.

The most obvious culprits are the Institute for Economic Affairs, Adam Smith Institute, and Tax Payers Alliance. This group are collectively referred to as the ‘Tufton Street network’ owing to their being based in the same building, 55 Tufton Street. Other residents of No.55 include the climate-science denying Global Warming Foundation and the Vote Leave campaign.

These outfits have semi-official and respectable sounding names. They present themselves as neutral policy experts. And their (very) regular appearances in the media certainly give an impression of legitimacy.

The reality however is that they are secretly funded by the corporate interests who would gain the most from the hard-right policies they promote. In short, the Tufton Street network are a front for shadowy corporate interests - but this not disclosed to the viewing public.

Millions of pounds is given by the fossil fuel, tobacco, and casino industries to groups in this network, like the Institute for Economic Affairs, who are then invited onto leading BBC programmes. While on air they promote disastrous policies which just so happen to match the business interests of their funders.

For example, British American Tobacco are a significant donor to the IEA, who happen to be relentless opponents of public health measures to reduce smoking. Their regular advocacy of NHS privatisation and an American-style healthcare system has lead many to conclude that pharmaceutical and private healthcare corporations are likely funders as well.

The Guardian has highlighted an extensive and international network of so-called think tanks engaging in this kind of shadowy lobbying.

Across hundreds of appearances on BBC platforms the funders of these groups are not disclosed. With a few exceptions uncovered by journalists, no-one knows where the money is actually coming from. There’s no requirement for each ‘think-tank’ to publish its donors and they have no intention of doing so. This is the definition of a dark money network. So why, when the BBC don’t know themselves who is behind these groups, are they allowed on our national broadcaster at all?

The impression given to an ordinary viewer is of independent experts whose words should be taken with some weight. The reality is a collection of spokespeople for the corporate interests funding them from the shadows. This is a clear conflict of interest which compromises the BBC and poisons our public discourse.

In November of last year I quizzed BBC executives directly about their platforming of these dodgy think tanks. This was followed by an exchange of letters between myself and senior BBC staff about the action they would take.

In June this year, the BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, finally announced the introduction of new editorial guidance on providing the relevant background on guests, including funding. This is a welcome step towards addressing misinformation on our national broadcaster. Whether it leads to a change in practice, we will have to wait and see. If these groups refuse to reveal their funding, there should simply be no place for them at all.

Corporate interests cannot be allowed to distort our public discourse and manipulate public policy to suit their private interests. They certainly cannot be allowed to do so from the shadows. This is one small step towards taking back control of the public sphere from the radical right.

You can read my exchange of letters with the BBC regarding dark money think thanks below.

Ross Greer to BBC November 2018

BBC to Ross Greer December 2018

Ross Greer to Tony Hall June 2019

Tony Hall to Ross Greer July 2019

 

 

Header Photo Credit: Bob the Lomond, Creative Commons

Get involved

More like this

Scottish Greens welcome NUS Scotland manifesto

Thu 7 Nov, 2019

The Scottish Greens have welcomed the NUS Scotland ‘When Students Lead’ manifesto for the general election.

Commenting on its publication, Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer said: Whether through their climate activism or opposition to Brexit young people are leading the debate in Scotland, and the NUS manifesto is a clear example of that.

“Cut your losses and jog on”: Greer tells Flamingo Land

Thu 7 Nov, 2019

Green MSP Ross Greer led a debate in Parliament this Tuesday in which he called for Flamingo Land to give way to a community buyout. The motion he proposed celebrated the success of Save Loch Lomond. The community campaign, working with the Green MSP, forced a series of setbacks for Flamingo Land, resulting in their application, lodged jointly with Scottish Enterprise, being withdrawn just a week before it was widely expected to be rejected.

Government haven’t brought an education debate in two years

Thu 7 Nov, 2019

The Scottish Government haven’t brought forward an education debate in over two years, despite claims that it is the First Minister’s ‘defining mission’, according to the Scottish Greens Education Spokesperson Ross Greer MSP.

Mr Greer raised the matter at First Minister’s Questions today, asking whether there would be a debate before the end of the year, a question the First Minister failed to directly answer. This follows a similar refusal to answer from the Education Secretary during an opposition-led debate yesterday.

Ross Greer MSP said: