Lord Alton, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, has asked the UK Government: “how much funding has been provided to BBC Media Action by the Department for International Development; whether the criteria for funding allocation include consideration of projects in closed countries with least access to news; and how much has been allocated to projects seeking to reach the people of North Korea”.
Founded in 1999, BBC Media Action is the BBC’s international charitable arm and uses media to achieve a number of aims, including the empowerment of citizens and the promotion of global rights. In terms of radio broadcasting, BBC Media Action has trained local editors, broadcasters and journalists in the methods of independent journalism and has co-produced programming on local issues for countries with specific needs. The charity is funded through various means, most notably: the Department for International Development; the FCO; the European Union; foreign governments; and international bodies, such as the UN.
Responding on behalf of the Government, Baroness Northover stated that “DFID does not have a bilateral programme with North Korea. Since 2011 DFID has provided £46.2m funding to BBC Media Action under a five year grant agreement.”
“The grant covers activities in eleven DFID priority countries, ten of which have been classified by ‘Freedom House’ as ‘partly free’ or ‘not free’. The criteria for country funding include the contribution to the grant’s results framework, and fit within the UK aid programme. Whilst North Korea scores extremely badly on freedom of information and media, it is not one of the countries that DFID has prioritised in terms of focusing development resources to achieve poverty reduction.”
In partnership with the BBC World Service, BBC Media Action is currently spending a significant portion of its DfID grant on financing radio programming that increases “domestic accountability and public dialogue” in societies where reliable information is not easily accessed, such as Myanmar, Kenya and Nigeria. However, BBC Media Action has no such programme for North Korea and does not partner any of the organisations that broadcast independent information into the country.