Tom Mills in his book, The BBC: Myth of Public Service, demolishes the claim of BBC being independent. The BBC is not independent of the governments or of the wider establishment.

London: As the Indian authorities continue their investigations into the tax affairs of the BBC, a look at the latter’s tax affairs in the UK makes interesting reading. According to TaxWatch dated July 2019, BBC has set aside up to £12 million to pay off the past tax liabilities of the BBC presenters. The presenters avoided tax payments by using personal service companies. The BBC’s annual report admits to this state of affairs. According to George Turner writing in TaxWatch, the BBC started to employ presenters as personal service companies from the late 1990s. Instead of contracting directly, the BBC contracted with the company. This meant that the BBC would no longer need to pay the employers national insurance. The presenters could minimise their tax payments by paying themselves a small salary through their company and receiving the rest of their income in dividends. This had a substantial tax benefit. According to the BBC, 300 of their employees used personal service companies and another 500 were employed as freelancers through other loan-based tax avoidance schemes. The BBC has been criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO) for agreeing to pay the tax liabilities of its presenters. The NAO does not consider it as legitimate use of BBC funds. According to the presenters, however, it was the BBC which actively encouraged or even forced them to take these tax avoidance schemes. In November 2018, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier put out a statement saying that although it was six years since concerns were raised about the personal services companies nothing had been sorted out.
Regarding the oft-proclaimed independence of the BBC, Tom Mills in his book, “The BBC: Myth of Public Service” comprehensively demolishes the claim. The BBC, he writes, is not independent of the governments or of the wider establishment. The governments set the terms under which the BBC operates, they appoint the most senior figures who are directly involved in the day to day managerial decision making. The governments set the licence fees. There is some editorial autonomy, but it is always kept under some degree of political control. According to Tom Mills, there are behind the scenes relationships between people at the top of the BBC, the secret state, senior politicians and the Cabinet Office. Networks and negotiations with the government formulate BBC editorial policy. In a report of the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee dated 2022-3 mention is made of the BBC as being a soft power promoter of British interests worldwide including the wider objectives in foreign policy, international trade and inward investment. The government is also urged to safeguard the work of the BBC World Service if necessary.
Given this scenario, what remains a mystery is the relentless biased reporting on India by the BBC. Britain and the UK have excellent relations, a historic free trade deal is being talked about. Air India has just ordered around 500 jets from Airbus and Boeing as well as Rolls Royce. The UK government said the pact will create highly skilled jobs in Wales, Derbyshire and Eastern England, helping boost exports and the economy This order marks the largest deal for commercial aircraft in aviation history. The deal has been acclaimed by President Joe Biden of the US, Macron of France and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. India has the world’s fastest growing economy, it is the world’s largest democracy. British interests are strongly tied with India and yet why does the BBC and most of the British media continuously paint a biased and negative picture of India?Who actually is benefiting by driving this wedge between the two countries?Why are India’s 1.3 billion people being alienated from the British people? Are there some elements in the BBC or other agencies who are serving some vested interests? The BBC needs a complete overhaul before it does serious damage to Britain and its global interests.

Nitin Mehta is the founder of Indian Cultural Centre, London.