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BBC warns staff not to bring corporation 'into disrepute' over social media use

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
BBC staff have been warned not to bring the corporation “into disrepute” on social media.
BBC staff have been told in new social media rules: 'Don’t bring the BBC into disrepute.'
  • ‘Don’t bring the BBC into disrepute,’ staff warned in new social media rules

  • New guidance bans employees from expressing personal opinions on current political debate

  • Journalists, meanwhile, are even given advice on how to use emojis

  • It comes as part of new boss Tim Davie’s crusade to maintain corporation’s impartiality

  • Visit the Yahoo homepage for more stories

BBC staff have been warned not to bring the corporation “into disrepute” on social media.

New rules policing employees’ use of sites such as Twitter have been imposed as part of new boss Tim Davie’s crusade to maintain the corporation’s impartiality.

Under the guidance, journalists have been subjected to specific rules which ban “expressing a personal opinion on matters of public policy, politics, or controversial subjects”.

As part of this, reporters have also been warned against “virtue signalling” – “no matter how apparently worthy the cause”.

Tim Davie, new Director General of the BBC, arrives at BBC Scotland in Glasgow for his first day in the role. (Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images)
BBC director general Tim Davie. (PA Images via Getty Images)

This includes retweets, likes or joining online campaigns which could “indicate a personal point of view”.

The rules even extend to the use of emojis which “can accidentally, or deliberately undercut an otherwise impartial post”.

Journalists have been told: “Nothing should appear on your personal social media accounts that undermine the perception of the BBC’s integrity or impartiality.”

There is also an instruction for all staff not to “express a view on any policy which is a matter of current political debate or on a matter of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or any other controversial subject”.

Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day presenter who is the corporation’s highest-paid employee, has been known for using his Twitter account for outspoken attacks on the government – a point of such contention that it was discussed at a House of Commons select committee last month.

High-profile BBC journalists such as political editor Laura Kuennsberg have also been accused of biased Twitter posts, though the corporation has never found her in breach of impartiality rules for something she has posted on social media.

Meanwhile, the following social media rules will apply to all staff:

  • Always behave professionally, treating others with respect and courtesy at all times: follow the BBC’s Values

  • Don’t bring the BBC into disrepute

  • Don’t criticise your colleagues in public. Respect the privacy of the workplace and the confidentiality of internal announcements

Watch: New BBC boss threatens to suspend employees' Twitter accounts

The BBC warned breaches of the rules “may lead to disciplinary action” and even “possible termination of employment in serious circumstances”.

Appearing before MPs last month, Davie raised the prospect of suspending employees’ Twitter accounts for impartiality breaches, though there is no mention of that in the new guidance.

Davie took over as director general at the beginning of September with a warning that it is time to “renew” the corporation’s commitment to impartiality: a constant source of controversy surrounding the BBC.