Newly declassified documents reveal the British government secretly gave the Reuters news agency funding during the Cold War so it would expand coverage of the Middle East and Latin America.
The British Foreign Office documents made public this week show the plan was set up during the late 1960s by the Information Research Department, a sub-agency founded after World War II to help fight Soviet propaganda.
The money paid to the news agency was disguised as increased subscription payments from the BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster, to protect Reuters’ reputation for independence, the papers reveal.
The government knew Reuters would retain editorial control of its articles while receiving the funding, but Britain still hoped to gain some political influence, according to the papers held at the National Archives.
Spokesman David Crundwell of Thomson Reuters, the current name of the company, said the arrangement would not be acceptable today.
“Many news organizations received some form of state subsidy after World War II. But the arrangement in 1969 was not in keeping with our trust principles, and we would not do this today,” Crundwell said in a statement.
Crundwell says the company does not receive any government funding today.