BBC STAFF SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS “MUST MEET OUTPUT STANDARDS’: Charlotte Tobitt (UK Press Gazette 29/10) reported that the BBC’s new social media rules stated that staff should treat their personal accounts as if they were BBC output, complying with its strict editorial standards and not including anything which they could not say on air on a BBC programme or on its website. She added that staff had also been warned that emojis could ‘undercut an otherwise impartial post’ and that liking or following some accounts could be enough to count as sharing a personal opinion. Ms Tobitt said that journalists had also been warned against:
- Linking to anything they had not read in full
- Using emojis to “undercut an otherwise impartial post” whether accidentally or deliberately
- Breaking news on a personal account – “If you have a story to break, the BBC platforms are your priority, even if it takes slightly longer”
- Being “seduced” by the informality of social media – “Your posts about news events and issues require careful thought and editorial discipline”
- Being “drawn into ill-tempered exchanges, or exchanges that would reflect badly on you, or the BBC”.
DAVIE ‘TO CONFIRM NEW ANTI-BIAS RULES’: Gordon Rayner (£ Telegraph 29/10) said that BBC director general Tim Davie would confirm new corporation rules which were designed to protect BBC impartiality by preventing staff from posting biased opinions on social media outlets and also by requiring them – in a new staff register – to declare earnings from sources other than the BBC. Mr Rayner reported that Mr Davie was expected to say that impartiality was the bedrock of the corporation and must be observed both on and off air and that he believed by forcing stars to list how much they had been paid by private companies to speak or host events, they would be ‘shamed’ into turning down such work. Mr Rayner said that the new guidance was not intended to prevent the use of social media ‘but to ensure that anyone working for the BBC uses it with appropriate regard for the BBC’s values’. He added that a list of social media rules was being posted to staff online and would be backed by disciplinary action including sacking.
Former BBC news programme executive and Downing Street communications chief Sir Robbie Gibb (£ Telegraph 29/10) claimed that the new measures being announced by Tim Davie showed his determination to tackle bias and ‘restore trust in the BBC’, and would demand sweeping changes throughout the corporation. Sir Robbie asserted:
‘The move is a big step in the right direction for Mr Davie, who took over the helm just last month. He has declared that restoring the BBC’s reputation for impartiality will be his top priority and in this he faces a mammoth task. We all pay our licence fee but all too often BBC output reflects the views of just one section of society – the urban, metropolitan middle classes that make up the bulk of the BBC workforce. Over the last decade, “group-think” at the BBC has distorted its output, eroding its reputation for impartiality and damaging public trust.
‘And this drive to restore what has been lost should not stop with social media or news and current affairs but should extend to the entire BBC output. For gains made in some areas risk being undermined if entertainment programmes are not subject to at least some level of editorial scrutiny. All too often, the narrow political group-think spills onto our screens in drama plots and comedy programmes.
‘It seems having a non Left-wing comedian has become a new form of tokenism. Since the rise of alternative comedy in the Eighties, the BBC has never moved culturally away from the dominance of Left-wing Tory-bashing comics. Only “anti woke” Geoff Norcott seems to have broken through this barrier. Norcott is a funny man but so too are Andrew Doyle, Leo Kearse and Dominic Frisby. You would be forgiven for never having heard of them unless you are a comedy circuit regular.
‘And how on earth did the jaw-droppingly biased Roadkill drama get commissioned? With its grotesque caricature of a Tory minister and ludicrous plot line about secret plans to privatise the NHS – surely this is the most inane, inaccurate and biased prime time drama to air on British TV.’