BBC Bans ‘Controversial’ Personal Opinions by Staff on Social Media as Part of Impartiality Guidelines

·2-min read

U.K. broadcaster BBC has published its impartiality guidelines and they include a directive not to engage in personal opinions on controversial subjects on social media.

“If your work requires you to maintain your impartiality, don’t express a personal opinion on matters of public policy, politics, or ‘controversial subjects'” reads one of the BBC guidelines pertaining to social media. The guidelines also require BBC staff on social media not to bring the organization into disrepute, not to criticize colleagues in public and to “respect the privacy of the workplace and the confidentiality of internal announcements.”

Impartiality was one of new BBC director-general Tim Davie’s cornerstone principles when he took charge in September. Highly paid “Match of the Day” presenter Gary Lineker is known for his outspoken views on Twitter. At that time, a BBC spokesperson had said that Lineker “is not involved in any news or political output for the BBC and, as such, any expression of his personal political views does not affect the BBC’s impartiality.”

The new social media guidance applies to everyone working at the BBC, whether they are using social media professionally or personally. The social media guidance also provides clear dos and don’ts to avoid perceptions of bias and guidance on avoiding bias through follows, likes or re-posting/shares.

There will also be tougher guidelines for some staff in news, current affairs, factual journalism, senior leadership, and a small number of presenters who have a significant public profile, the BBC said. “The new tougher guidance for some staff will help to ensure social media activity complies with the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines as if it were BBC output,” said a BBC statement.

The BBC’s rules around external engagements are introducing measures to “ensure a consistent approach for these engagements, including a standardized approval process to ensure consistency and a central register of requests in each department.”

The BBC Academy will roll out impartiality training in the coming months.

“Thanks to everyone’s outstanding work we have a strong and hard-won reputation for fairness and balance,” Davie wrote in email to staff on Thursday. “We want to ensure that we keep building the trust people have in us.”

“Impartiality is the foundation on which we deliver insightful, exciting and ground-breaking stories. These guidelines are intended to help us continue to deliver this, and build audience trust,” said Davie.

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