What are the revised BBC guidelines for social media use by flagship show hosts?

BBC Revises Guidelines for Personal Use of Social Media, Says Flagship Show Hosts Can “Not Endorse Nor Attack Political Parties”

The BBC has recently released updated guidelines concerning the personal use of social media for its employees, particularly emphasizing that hosts of flagship shows must refrain from endorsing or attacking political parties. The new guidelines also discourage employees from engaging in activities that could be considered campaigning by proxy.

The BBC’s decision to revise its guidelines comes after a controversial Twitter post by sports pundit Gary Lineker, which sparked a debate about the political neutrality of the organization. In response to these concerns, the BBC has reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining high standards of civility in public discourse and avoiding actions that could bring the organization into disrepute.

The revised guidelines were developed following a review conducted by former TV executive John Hardie. Hardie conducted interviews with over 80 individuals, both within and outside of the BBC, to gather feedback and insights regarding the organization’s guidelines on the individual use of social media. In light of his findings, Hardie recommended that the BBC should prioritize promoting civility in public discourse and ensure that all presenters exemplify the BBC’s ethos of respect for diversity of opinion on social media.

Informed by Hardie’s review, the BBC has updated its social media guidance for staff and freelancers, building upon the guidelines initially published in the fall of 2020. The revised guidelines now include specific directives for those presenting flagship programs. The intention behind this update is to strike a balance between freedom of expression, the responsibilities of freelancers to the BBC, and the expectations of the audience. The BBC aims to provide clear, simple, transparent, and enforceable rules for its employees.

Here are the key elements of the revised guidelines:

1. Those working in news and current affairs, across all divisions, as well as those involved in factual journalism production, hold a particular responsibility to maintain the BBC’s impartiality, especially in their social media activities. Consequently, they must adhere to the strictest rules on impartiality.

2. Presenters of flagship programs bear a special responsibility to uphold the BBC’s impartiality due to their prominence within the organization. This responsibility extends to their social media use during the period when their programs are on air, as well as two weeks before and after each series they present.

3. Other BBC staff and freelancers are not obligated to uphold the BBC’s impartiality through their social media actions. However, they must exercise civility in public discourse and ensure that their behavior does not tarnish the reputation of the BBC.

The BBC’s updated guidelines aim to strike a delicate balance between freedom of expression and the responsibilities of its employees. While the organization recognizes the importance of allowing its staff to express their opinions, it also recognizes the need to maintain impartiality and avoid potential conflicts of interest.

The publication of these revised guidelines reflects the BBC’s commitment to ensuring that its employees uphold the highest standards of professionalism and maintain the public’s trust in the organization. By providing clear guidelines and promoting civility in public discourse, the BBC is taking a proactive stance in promoting responsible social media use among its employees.

It is important for organizations like the BBC to establish guidelines for social media usage, particularly for employees with high public profiles. As public figures, employees of the BBC carry a significant influence and must be mindful of the impact their words and actions can have on public perception. The BBC’s decision to update its guidelines demonstrates the organization’s recognition of the changing landscape of media and the need to address the challenges posed by social media.

Overall, the BBC’s revised guidelines represent a step forward in ensuring that the organization maintains its impartiality and upholds its reputation for delivering unbiased news and programming. By setting clear expectations for its employees, particularly those in prominent positions, the BBC is taking proactive measures to protect its integrity and preserve public trust, while still allowing for individual expression within acceptable limits.