Why this subject?
I felt it interesting because I think that public service broadcasting corporation has lot to lose if they will lose their credibility and it’s easily done by stupid mistakes of individuals in their free time or at work through social media. Editors are supposed to write impartial and if they on their personal blogs etc. write differently, than when they are working, they might lose their credibility. I found many articles which stated that journalists today are using more and more social media as a tool for their work. For example the guidelines say that editors are not allowed to express their political views. Does it mean that editors are not allowed to join some political groups in facebook, for example? I think it’s interesting to find out how BBC has tried to manage these problems.
BBC has a guideline to their employees how to use social media both in BBC pages and personal pages. BBC’s guidelines are compact and easy to follow. Why is it important to BBC to have these guidelines?
“The Internet provides a number of benefits in which BBC staff may wish to participate. However, when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s editorial values and policies.” BBCs official net page.
Main points of the BBC guidelines
- The personal use of the internet by BBC staff must be tempered by an awareness of the potential conflicts that may arise.
- There should be a clear division between “BBC” pages and “personal” pages.
- On Social Networking sites, you should be mindful that the information you disclose does not bring the BBC into disrepute.
- For example, editorial staff should not indicate their political allegiance. Non-editorial staff should make their role clear if they wish to engage in political activity.
- It may not be appropriate to share BBC-related photographs, comments and videos. Offensive comment about BBC colleagues may be deemed a disciplinary offence.
- BBC staff are free to edit online encyclopaedias (such as Wikipedia) but should be transparent about doing so. You may respond to legitimate criticism of the BBC but not remove it.
- Blogs, microblogs and other personal websites which do not identify the author as a BBC employee, do not discuss the BBC and are purely personal would fall outside this guidance.
- New and existing blogs, microblogs and other personal websites which do identify the author as a BBC employee should be discussed with your line manager to ensure that due impartiality and confidentiality is maintained.
- All the things that are published have to be read by two people before publishing.
- Before you consider starting this activity, carefully think through the editorial purpose. Don’t just do it because other programmes or website areas have done it. And think about practicalities – who is going to do it, how much time will it take? Make a note of any login names and passwords, and also any other service that you set up to automate the activity (eg: forwards it from Twitter to Facebook). Share those details with members of your team, making sure they are stored safely: if you move to do a different job or are off sick someone else will have to take over. All accounts need to be cleared by your editor, social media editor.
BBC’s guidelines are different if you are an editor or non-editorial employee. Guidelines for editors are very strict and they do not only expect a lot of their editors, but also people around them, for example family members, and how their act might affect BBC’s impartiality or objectivity. If you are personally recognized by your name as BBC editor you have to be extremely careful how you present yourself in the social media, even in your personal sites, or at least you have to state that these are your own thoughts. In own personal blogs editors can “Discuss their BBC work in ways that benefit the BBC, and add to the industry conversation. This editorial guidance note is not intended to restrict this, as long as confidential information is not revealed”.
Guidelines can be very good and helpfully for editors. It’s also easier to the company that the employees doesn’t do “anything stupid” and that they have some company rules which they have to/can follow. BBC is not forbidding everything straight away, they are advising employees to contact managers before acting, which is not too limited or strict but also might be exhausting. A common sense is also a very good advice. Not often does an employee criticize openly at the work place the company or co-workers, so why do it on the internet?
What it comes to the question if the editors are allowed to join a political facebook group “Editorial staff and staff in politically sensitive areas should never indicate a political allegiance on social networking sites, either through profile information or through joining political groups”. But later on BBC states that “Any rare exception to this must be agreed in advance by a line manager. For instance, it may be appropriate to join Facebook groups related to political causes for reasons of political research”. Well, how does a reader react who notices that an editor of BBC has joined some political group but don’t know that it might be because of research? Doesn’t it lower the BBC’s credibility?
I think guidelines for something so complicated can never be simple, but as BBC states “don’t do anything stupid” covers pretty much the point.