The BBC has wheeled out a plethora of new guidelines for its journalists, including bans on online campaigning, emojis, and “virtue signaling.” Some pundits aren’t happy with the new focus on objectivity.
Newly-appointed BBC director Tim Davie took over a broadcaster accused of hammering home a “woke agenda” and partaking in “cancel culture,” according to Conservative MP Julian Knight. Taking over the reigns after the BBC caused uproar when it temporarily scrapped ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Rule, Britannia!’ from the BBC Proms, Davies threatened to take “hard action” to restore the venerable broadcaster’s impartiality.
He followed through on Thursday, as the BBC announced a host of new guidelines for its journalists.
Staff are instructed to treat their social media accounts as company accounts, and not to express any “controversial” opinions or “take sides” on political issues. Including disclaimers like “my views, not the BBC’s” in their Twitter bio will no longer cover these journalists, who face disciplinary action, up to and including firing, if they break the new rules.
“Do think about what your likes, shares, retweets, use of hashtags and who you follow say about you, your personal prejudices and opinions,” the rules continue, warning staff not to “link to anything you haven’t read fully” and to “avoid ‘virtue signaling’ – retweets, likes or joining online campaigns.”
Journalists are also advised not to use emojis, which the guidelines state can “undercut an otherwise impartial post.”
The rules didn’t sit well with the BBC’s John Campbell, who said he’d stick to posting BBC links to avoid “making a rod for [his] own back.” Nor did they please the BBC’s Huw Edwards, who tweeted a stream of Welsh dragon icons to protest the emoji clampdown.
“Looks like I won’t be calling racists rude words anymore,” BBC radio presenter Nihal Arthanayake tweeted, as pundits and commentators joined in to slam the new restrictions.
Does anyone have a link to these guidelines? ‘Virtue signalling’ is not a real thing, it’s just a lazy alt-right insult, so if the phrase has now been codified in an official document, the BBC really is in a dark place. https://t.co/K4JpQ3nuZH
In the end, my greatest complaint with the BBC social guidelines is that they do not respect the public conversation. They treat the public conversation as dangerous, something to stay away from, not something to join and improve.
Literally each of these rules is utterly stupid and wrong. (How do they even define ‘virtue signalling’? What if someone is just saying something nice, or speaking the truth?) https://t.co/eaBvifaYIp
“Actors, dramatists, comedians, musicians and pundits who work for the BBC” will not be subject to the guidelines, meaning that football icon and ‘Match of the Day’ presenter Gary Lineker will likely be allowed to continue his regular left-wing Twitter posting.
As well as policing its journalists’ social media use, the BBC issued another set of guidelines on impartiality in general, which forbid news and current affairs journalists from joining protests and marches, and cautions them to watch their body language and tone of voice when on camera, to avoid revealing “a personal opinion or prejudice.”
Furthermore, the BBC will require staff to disclose paid speaking gigs and other employment outside the corporation every quarter from next year onwards. That particular rule comes about after BBC News editorial director Kamal Ahmed apologized earlier this year for taking £12,000 to speak at a banking conference, and after the broadcaster’s North America editor Jon Sopel gave an off-the-record speech at tobacco giant Philip Morris’ annual staff conference last year.
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