Sock Puppet?

What is a "sock puppet"? Wikipedia defines it as an on-line identity used for purposes of deception.


For our purposes I would narrow that definition to government-funded (and therefore subject to government control) organisations that have the appearance of being independent, and I would widen it beyond the original on-line constraint. Deception in this case usually relies upon the reader not actually checking out the organisations' sources of funding.


The Institute for Economic Affairs has been on the case since at least 2012, when it published a paper on sock puppets (updated 2014). It may come as no surprise that they also identified the EU's version as Euro puppets in 2013. However, it seems that Edward Heath and George Pompidou were well ahead of the game when they set up the FBC back in 1972.

Candidates for Sock Puppet Status

The Franco British Council


See our FBC page.



The Royal United Services Institute


Continuing our defence theme, first up is the Royal United Services Institute, "the world's oldest independent think-tank on international defence and security". Helpfully as at 14th March 2018 it lists its supporters ranked according to decreasing contribution levels for 2015-16; this is headed way out in front at at over £1,000,000 by the European Commission​! Trailing behind the Commission at less than £500,000 are other groups including BAE Systems, our very own Foreign and Commonwealth Office, HSBCMinistry of Defence, Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Standard Chartered Bank, and more - you can read the full list for yourselves by following the link above.


Clearly this body qualifies as both a Sock Puppet and a Euro Puppet. Any idea that this institute is an independent body is manifest eye-wash when it is dependent on so many agencies of government for its funding. Quite why banks are so prominent in the list of donors is a question worth pursuing, but sadly this site has neither the time nor the space (although, off at a slight tangent, the YouTube channel Best Evidence has some startling and unmissable videos). And Qatar? We don't venture into foreign relations here.


BBC Media Action


Yes, BBC Media Action is a "legally and financially independent charity" which was set up by the BBC, but "we are not funded by the BBC licence fee".


Well, who does fund it then? Answers (based on the 2017-18 year) include UK and other Governments, the UN, the EU, the US Government, other European governments, "development organisations", charities and NGOs, Gates Foundation, and so on. Oh, and a comparatively negligible funding (not separately identified) by charitable donations from "individuals".


See page 12 of their 2017-18 Annual Report and Accounts for more detail. We also find (page 62) that the "BBC Group" and "BBC News Limited" also made significant donations "in kind" totalling approximately £1.5M, with other overseas providers donating getting on for £3M in "airtime/media space". It's unclear whether these donations also cover use by the charity of the BBC web site.


According the The List, "they benefit from access to BBC people and infrastructure" and "all staff employed on a continuing basis by British Media Action have employment contracts with the BBC". According to the Charity Commission their public address is BBC, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1AA 1AA.  So in a minor way they would seem to benefit from a relatively small part of the BBC's licence fee.


BBC Media Action is funded by so many governments that it seems to require a whole new category of Sock Puppet to describe it - Nanny World Puppet perhaps? Ideas to our Contact page please.

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