The BBC, Britain's public broadcaster, has been subject to a three-day “survey” by the Indian Income Tax Department, following the release of its two-part documentary, India: the Modi Question. The documentary, which looked at then-Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, was banned in India, leading to suspicion that the search was more than just a tax investigation.
The Income Tax Department has indicated that it is investigating issues related to international taxation and transfer pricing of BBC subsidiary companies. The government has also accused the BBC of being defiant and non-compliant, and having significantly diverted its profits. In response, the BBC has said it is “fully cooperating” with the Indian tax authorities and that its output and journalism “continues as normal.”
The BBC is funded by an annual television licence fee charged to British households, companies, and organisations. This fee is set by the British government and agreed upon by Parliament. However, the government has little or no control over the BBC’s operations.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has hit back, claiming the BBC has been running “venomous reporting” and calling the broadcaster the “most Bhrasht Bakwaas Corporation (corrupt and rubbish corporation)”. Following the tax survey, BJP Minister Kiren Rijiju said, “These people trust foreign news agencies but they won’t trust Indian agencies. They swear by BBC but they won’t believe Indian courts. They’ll even abuse Supreme Court if one adverse judgement is passed.”
The BBC has said it stands by its journalists and will continue to report without fear or favour. The survey concluded late Thursday evening, with the BBC’s output back to normal and the broadcaster remaining committed to serving its audiences in India and beyond.
0. “India: Tax raids on the BBC are an ‘affront to free speech'” Amnesty International, 14 Feb. 2023, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/02/india-tax-raids-on-the-bbc-are-an-affront-to-free-speech/
1. “Income tax ‘survey’ operations at BBC offices continue for third day” The Tribune India, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/income-tax-survey-operations-at-bbc-offices-continue-for-third-day-480333
2. “After 3 days of income tax ‘survey', BBC says…” Rediff.com, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.rediff.com/news/report/after-3-days-of-income-tax-survey-bbc-says/20230217.htm
3. “Search of BBC offices by Indian government ends after three day raid” CNN, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/16/media/india-bbc-office-raid-third-day-thursday-intl-hnk/index.html
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8. “Search of BBC offices by Indian tax inspectors ends after 3 days” NPR, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/02/16/1157428195/bbc-india-raid-modi