Former ITN boss John Hardie will lead an independent review into the BBC’s social media guidelines after its impartiality row with Gary Lineker.
The review was announced by BBC director-general Tim Davie after Lineker’s brief suspension from Match Of The Day caused a boycott by on-air talent.
The BBC later reinstated Lineker and Mr Davie acknowledged “the potential confusion caused by the grey areas” in its guidance.
– Who is John Hardie?
Mr Hardie acted for nearly a decade as chief executive and editor-in-chief of media conglomerate ITN.
He was previously executive vice president at Walt Disney and chairman of the Royal Television Society.
He has not worked for the BBC.
– What will the review look at?
It will examine guidance covering “individual use of social media” which was published in October 2020 and covers those working as on-air freelancers outside news and factual.
The review will specifically consider which freelancers are covered by the guidance, what – if any – impartiality requirements should apply to freelancers, and how they should be applied.
– What happened following the 2020 review?
After the review in October 2020 and the issuing of new social media guidelines for BBC staff, the corporation told employees they must not bring the corporation “into disrepute” with their use of social media.
The directives were said to apply to “everyone working at the BBC whether they are using social media professionally or personally”, and instructed staff to refrain from criticising colleagues in public and “respect the privacy of the workplace and the confidentiality of internal announcements”.
Another rule said: “If your work requires you to maintain your impartiality, don’t express a personal opinion on matters of public policy, politics, or ‘controversial subjects’.”
The guidance also made specific references to the public use of emojis and “virtue signalling”, including retweets and likes.
– What are the current social media guidelines?
The BBC’s editorial guidelines on individual use of social media say the corporation has formulated the guidance “for those who use social media for professional purposes and for some aspects of personal use”.
The BBC says the guidance “is not intended to prevent the use of social media but to ensure that anyone working for the BBC uses it with appropriate regard for the BBC’s values”.
The guidelines say all BBC employees, contractors and freelancers using personal and professional social media accounts must “always behave professionally, treating others with respect and courtesy at all times; follow the BBC’s values, and don’t bring the BBC into disrepute”.
“Respect the privacy of the workplace and the confidentiality of internal announcements.”
– Who do the current guidelines apply to?
According to the BBC’s editorial guidelines on individual use of social media, the rules apply to “all colleagues using social media for both work and personal purposes”.
The guidance adds: “Additionally for some roles at the BBC, personal social media activity must also comply with the BBC editorial guidelines as though it were BBC output including: Individuals who work in news and current affairs (across all divisions) or factual journalism production and all senior leaders in any area of the BBC Group.”
Clarification on who is not necessarily subject to the guidelines in their entirety says: “The extent to which a non-staff member, contributor or presenter is required to comply with the editorial guidelines will be set out in the BBC’s contractual relationship with them.
“It is generally expected that irregular or occasional contributors would not be required to apply the full requirements of the editorial guidelines to their social media use.
“Actors, dramatists, comedians, musicians and pundits who work for the BBC are not subject to the requirements of impartiality on social media.”