Insights BBC updates staff social media guidance


The BBC’s new Social Media Guidance is aimed at ensuring that the BBC meets its commitment to impartiality.  In its introduction to the guidance, the BBC states that impartiality, which means not taking sides and reflecting all viewpoints, is an important element in the BBC’s mission to universality in serving the whole country and all licence fee payers regardless of political views.  In its introduction to the Guidance, the BBC states that its reputation for impartiality is a huge benefit to the BBC.

The Code states that everyone working for the BBC must behave professionally and treat others with respect and courtesy.  The best practice guidance for all those working for the BBC advises caution when using social media and points out, amongst other things, that there is no difference between how a personal and an “official” account is perceived on social media (disclaimers do not offer protection) and that an individual’s personal brand on social media is always secondary to their responsibility to the BBC.

Additional impartiality guidance is set out for individuals working in news and current affairs and factual journalism and senior leadership.  The social media guidance for this group includes not revealing how you vote, not expressing a view on any policy which is a matter of current political debate, public policy, political or industrial controversy or any other “controversial” subject, and not supporting campaigns no matter how worthy or uncontroversial.  These individuals must also avoid bias e.g. by not following social media accounts that reflect one point of view on matters of public policy, politics or “controversial subjects” or by the use of likes, re-posting or emojis.

Further guidance is set out for presenters of flagship programmes (Antiques Roadshow, The Apprentice, Dragons’ Den, The One Show, Major Events (e.g. Sporting Events), MasterChef, Match of the Day, Strictly Come Dancing, Top Gear and certain Radio 1 and 2 programmes).  These individuals should not endorse or attack a political party, criticise the character of individual politicians in the UK, comment on any issue that is a matter for political debate during an election period for UK general elections and referendums in any part of the UK, or take up an official role in campaigning groups or become involved in campaign fundraising (subject to certain exceptions).  This extends to the use of social media for professional or personal use during the periods in which these programmes are on air and for a window of two weeks before and after the series.

Individuals who do not identify themselves as working for the BBC, but would otherwise be covered by the guidance, are required to adhere to the rules.  Actors, dramatists, musicians, comedians and pundits working for the BBC are not subject to the impartiality guidance.  Breach of the guidance can lead to disciplinary action including possible termination of employment.

For the guidance, click here.