The BBC management team was chastened by the clumsiness with which it handled the Lineker case, the suspension and reinstatement – after a barrage of criticism and a boycott from colleagues – of the star presenter of the Match of the Day programme. ). The former footballer criticized the hardening of the immigration policy of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on social networks and compared the language of the Minister of the Interior, Suella Braverman, with that of Germany in the 1930s before the Second World War. The public corporation announced this Thursday the new rules on the use of social networks by the presenters of its entertainment programs. They may speak out on “the specific facts” surrounding any issue that has been the subject of political debate, but may not attack or support specific political parties or figures either during the broadcast time of their program, or during the two weeks prior to its premiere. or after its removal from the antenna.
“The rules in force previously prohibited taking sides on issues that were part of the debate between political parties (as occurred with Lineker’s statements). With the new approach, taking sides is allowed, as long as you stick to the specific issue. It is a significant change,” explained John Hardie, former executive director of the ITN network, who was commissioned by the BBC to review its regulations regarding the use of social networks.
“All very sensible,” Lineker responded to the news on his X account (formerly Twitter), accompanied by a thumbs up emoticon.
The new rules will be imposed on programs such as Match of the Day, MasterChef, Top Gear or The Apprentice. The BBC insists on remembering that its presenters – the vast majority with individual contracts, and not part of the public company’s staff – “have a particular responsibility with regard to the impartiality of the BBC, due to their specific profiles within of the chain”. However, the importance of freedom of expression prevails, much more so when it comes to personalities who have their own sphere of influence among the public.
For all journalists and staff of the network’s news services, the rules of respect for impartiality when using their social media accounts are much more restrictive and strict. “If you want to be an opinion columnist or campaign partisan on social media, it is a valid option, but you should not be working at the BBC,” he told staff in September 2020 when the director of radio and television was starting his job. British public, Tim Davie.
“It is not allowed to express an opinion regarding any matter that is the subject of political debate at that time, or about a political measure, an industrial controversy or any controversial matter,” establish the network’s recommendations to its journalists regarding the use of networks. social.
Regarding all those people who collaborate with the BBC but are not part of the permanent staff of the news team or the star entertainment programs – that is, actors, comedians or political analysts – the new rules avoid claiming the responsibility of defending the impartiality of the BBC, but they do ask them to “respect the civic rules of any public discourse, in order not to damage the reputation of the channel.”
“In the future, it will be easier for the BBC to determine if someone has contravened the rules on social media. It will be easier to distinguish between a comment on the facts surrounding a specific matter and a specific attack against a person,” said Hardie, the person responsible for the new code of conduct. It was his way of remembering the chaos caused by the Lineker case, which infuriated British conservative deputies, gave rise to an internal revolt of almost ungovernable solidarity with the sports star and put the management of the public corporation on the ropes.
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