BBC stars Tweet their anger at social media rules banning employees from social media virtue signalling, campaigning and posting while drunk

  • The BBC has published its new set of rules and guidance, alongside new training 
  • New director-general’s impartiality crackdown implements stringent measures 
  • The new measures introduced today include updated guidance on impartiality 
  • Staff at the corporation have also been given new rules on use of social media
  • Crackdown on external engagements for news presenters and senior staff 

BBC stars have taken to Twitter to rebel against the corporation’s tough new social media rules that ban staff from voicing some personal views online or undertaking lucrative outside work.

The corporation’s director-general Tim Davie today published a radical shake-up in the wake of damning ‘impartiality’ criticisms that dogged his predecessor and cast doubt on the corporation’s future. 

When he came into the post in September, Mr Davie warned staff he would be bringing in stringent new measures to ensure impartiality and that they would face the sack if they fell foul of the rules.  

Tim Davie has launched a radical shake-up of the broadcaster after stepping into his post in September 

However some of the broadcaster’s biggest names have already taken to Twitter tonight to flout the newly announced social media rules, which dismissed tweeting in support of ‘worthy causes’ as ‘virtue signalling’. 

Huw Edwards, Presenter of BBC News at Ten, tweeted: ‘[7x emoji Flag of Wales] The BBC’s new social media guidance says that the “use of emojis can – accidentally, or deliberately – undercut an otherwise impartial post” [9x emoji Flag of Wales]’ 

While James Wong, who appears on Country File and Gardeners’ Question Time tweeted: ‘I am making a new series for BBC World News, so I guess these directives apply to me?

‘To confirm, if they do, I won’t be following them. “Virtue signalling” isn’t an objective concept. It’s a weird alt-right insult. Pandering to it deserves no place in public broadcasting.’

Huw Edwards, Presenter of BBC News at Ten took to Twitter to immediately flout the 

While James Wong, who appears on Country File and Gardener’s Question Time said that he wouldn’t be following the rules

Sangita Myska, presenter of Positive Thinking on BBC Radio 4 questioned whether reporters would still be able to wear poppies on screen

BBC News’ newsdesk and planning editor Neil Henderson tweeted: ‘Virtue signalling. Well I’m proud to be sacked for any opposition I may express to racism and hate.’

He then jokingly tweeted: ‘Is Tim Davie on Twitter? Asking for 89k friends.’ 

Sangita Myska, presenter of Positive Thinking on BBC Radio 4 questioned whether reporters would still be able to wear poppies on screen. 

Commenting on Henderson’s tweets in support she tweeted: ‘I just ‘liked’ your tweet. Am I in trouble now?’ 

The guidelines also clamp down on high-profile presenters topping up their already hefty salaries by moonlighting for private companies. 

Newsreader Huw Edwards, BBC Breakfast’s Naga Munchetty and the North America editor, Jon Sopel, have previously come under fire for raking in tens of thousands of pounds for undertaking private work. 

A selection of opinionated past tweets from the BBC’s biggest names which would violate the new rules

The new social media guidance, which applies to employees of the BBC using social media in their professional or personal capacity, has four rules to be followed.

They include not bringing the ‘BBC into disrepute’ and also to maintain impartiality if required, meaning staff should not ‘express a personal opinion on matters of public policy, politics, or ‘controversial subjects”.

Another of the rules urges staff: ‘Do not criticise your colleagues in public. Respect the privacy of the workplace and the confidentiality of internal announcements’.

The new set of rules and guidance include updated guidance on impartiality, a guide and rules on the use of social media, rules around external engagements for news presenters and senior staff, as well as a ‘safeguarding impartiality’ training programme.   

Davie – who took over the BBC on September 1 – said that under the new guidelines, staff will now have to declare ‘certain types of work undertaken outside of the BBC’, akin to declarations required for Members of Parliament. 

Things to DO: Ten things staff should not do under the BBC’s new social media rules 

1. Always treat others with respect, even in the face of abuse

2. Assume anything you say or post will be viewed critically

3. If you know you’ve got something wrong, correct it quickly and openly

4. Remember that your personal brand on social media is always secondary to your responsibility to the BBC

5. Respect the confidentiality of internal meetings and discussion

6. Think about what your likes, shares, retweets, use of hashtags and who you follow say about you

7. Be open to, seek, and respect the widest range of opinion and reflect it

8. Use separate posts on public issues rather than join threads started by others

9. Be careful with rebuttals – they can feed conflict

10. Think how to signal that a post is a professional judgement, not a personal opinion  

 

Things NOT to do: Ten things staff should not do under the BBC’s new social media rules 

1. Do not be drawn into ill-tempered exchanges, or exchanges that will reflect badly on you, or the BBC

2. Do not post when your judgement may be impaired

3. Never use your BBC status to seek personal gain or pursue personal campaigns

4. Do not reveal how you vote or express support for any political party

5. Do not offer judgements beyond your specialism

6. Do not support campaigns no matter how apparently worthy the cause

7. Do not post anything that couldn’t be said on-air or on BBC platforms

8. Do not break news on a personal account

9. Do not link to anything you haven’t read fully

10. Do not be seduced by the informality of tone and language on social media

 

The 53-year-old has said the rules would be enforced, adding that he is prepared to sack presenters and ‘take people off Twitter’.  

The overhaul by Davie, a former PepsiCo executive and Conservative party member, comes after a number of impartiality rows including Emily Maitlis’ Newsnight monologue in May about the Dominic Cummings lockdown furore.

She said the Prime Minister’s chief adviser broke the rules and ‘the country can see that’.

There will now be a ‘standardised approval process to ensure consistency and a central register of requests in each department.’

The BBC will publish a quarterly summary of engagements – starting in the New Year – for all senior leaders, presenters and on air staff working in journalism roles across the broadcaster.  

When using social media, staff are urged, ‘not be drawn into ill-tempered exchanges, or exchanges that will reflect badly on you, or the BBC.’

They are also told never to post, ‘when your judgement may be impaired’, and, ‘never use your BBC status to seek personal gain or pursue personal campaigns.’ 

The updated impartiality guidelines now state: ‘It is essential that those engaged in the production of news and current affairs and factual journalism in particular say nothing publicly which could be interpreted as bias on politics or public policy issues, or controversial issues.’

Staff are also set to undergo more training in the upcoming months.  

The training will cover, ‘updates on the importance of impartiality generally and new social media training’ and will be tailored to specific roles across the BBC. 

…But Gary still won’t play ball

Gary Lineker last night vowed to continue using his ‘large platform’ on social media to share his views. 

The former England striker said he welcomes the debate that comes with discussing his opinions – and hopes he can influence ‘one or two’ people. 

Lineker, pictured, told the Between the Lines podcast: ‘I don’t think my views are any more important than anyone else’s. 

‘But I have a large platform so I try and use it wisely and use it for good. 

‘People will disagree with me and that’s fine – I don’t mind debate… I don’t understand abuse. 

‘I will share my views and obviously, I believe in what I say and I will stand up for it.’ 

During the last election campaign, newsreader Huw Edwards liked a tweet of a video which said ‘Vote Labour for the National Health Service’. Mr Edwards later claimed that he had not seen the ‘Vote Labour’ message at the end of the clip.

Political editor Laura Kuenssberg was also criticised after she wrongly claimed on Twitter that a Labour activist punched a Tory adviser. She later apologised.

The BBC has also been on the defensive for failing to police outside activities by presenters. North America editor Jon Sopel was criticised last year for giving a paid speech to tobacco giant Philip Morris International in Miami. 

Staff, contractors and freelancers could face dismissal for ‘serious’ breaches of the guidelines, according to the broadcaster.

‘Impartiality is the foundation on which we deliver insightful, exciting and ground-breaking stories,’ Mr Davie said in an email to staff.

He added: ‘These guidelines are intended to help us continue to deliver this, and build audience trust.’

One of the stars potentially in Davie’s sights is former England footballer Gary Lineker, the publicly funded corporation’s best paid presenter, who is an outspoken voice on Twitter.

Lineker and some BBC staff have backed a campaign by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, seeking to force the government to provide free school meals for poorer children outside term time during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The director-general is also reportedly planning to axe some ‘left-leaning’ comedy shows that the Conservatives accuse of bias on issues such as Brexit. 

Conflicts of interest: The BBC stars topping up their hefty salaries as they cash in with huge payouts from banks, car giants and oil companies

JON SOPEL, £245,000-a-year BBC salary: Jon Sopel, 60, is paid up to £245,000 a year in his role as the broadcaster’s North America Editor, covering all aspects of US news including politics, policy and business.

But the presenter last year sparked a conflict of interest row after accepting tens of thousands of pounds from the biggest bank on Wall Street.

Mr Sopel boosted his pay by speaking at a string of JP Morgan events – despite it posing an apparent conflict of interest. 

Jon Sopel presided over two sessions at JP Morgan’s Global Markets Conference in Paris in 2017 – which included an interview with Mr Dimon. And in 2016, Mr Sopel appeared at JP Morgan’s Board Summit in New York. Pictured is Mr Sopel giving an off-the-record keynote address at the world’s biggest tobacco company’s Miami conference in April

Mr Sopel presided over two sessions at JP Morgan’s Global Markets Conference in Paris in 2017.

And in 2016, Mr Sopel appeared at JP Morgan’s Board Summit in New York, where he interviewed a former president of the European Commission about what Brexit ‘means for global business’.

Sources say he was paid around £35,000 for the Paris conference. He is thought to have received around £20,000 for the New York event.

He is also known to have hosted other JP Morgan events. Mr Sopel’s agent Mary Greenham said: ‘He has done events for JP Morgan and the BBC are aware of this.’ 

Earlier in 2019, he spoke at an event by Philip Morris International, the world’s biggest tobacco company. 

Mr Sopel lives in Washington with his wife, but keeps a four-bedroom house in Hampstead worth more than £2million and a £1.2million flat in London’s Belsize Park.

MISHAL HUSSAIN, £255,000-a-year BBC salary: The Radio 4’s Today programme presenter, 47, took part in at least 10 functions and in January appeared at the Oslo Energy Forum.

Ms Husain moderated the event – which she has also been apart of at least five times previously – but it is not known how much she was paid.

However other BBC stars are listed on speaking agency websites as being able to charge between £10,000 and £25,000 to attend corporate events.

At the forum Ms Husain moderated discussions on topics such as ‘climate action in a world of cherished entitlements’.

As well as the three-day Oslo Energy Forum appearances, Ms Husain has attended a conference staged by Equinor, Norway’s state-controlled oil company. 

BBC presenter Mishal Husain (pictured) was paid to appear at Norwegian gas and oil industry events, causing critics to call for tighter rules

HUW EDWARDS, £495,000-a-year BBC salary: Huw Edwards has raked in an estimated £400,000 in speaking fees in the last five years.

The News at Ten anchor has fronted at least 16 events since the start of 2014, and commands fees of up to £25,000 a time. 

He is also thought to have hosted numerous other events over that period – but the BBC does not make the engagements public or keep a central register so the extent of his moonlighting work is unknown. 

Mr Edwards does not tend to accept money from firms that could be a conflict of interest. He also undertakes charity events for free. However, he has fronted a series of events for railway firms, regional law societies and insurance brokers.

The News at Ten anchor has fronted at least 16 events since the start of 2014, and commands fees of up to £25,000 a time

The News at Ten anchor fronted at least 16 events since the start of 2014, and commands fees of up to £25,000 a time. Pictured, Edwards hosting the British Insurance Brokers Association conference where Boris Johnson revealed his ambition to be Prime Minister

In 2019, he hosted the National Rail Awards in London and also fronted events for the Birmingham Law Society, the Women’s Institute and Thames Valley Business Magazine.

He also hosted the British Insurance Brokers Association conference where Boris Johnson revealed his ambition to be Prime Minister. 

According to JLA, one of the speakers’ agencies which has him on their books, he charges between £10,000 and £25,000. 

The BBC said that none of the events broke its impartiality rules.

GREG JAMES, £229,999-a-year BBC salary: Radio 1 DJ Greg James was paid £100,000 by oil giant Shell to front an online campaign which plugged the company’s ‘green’ credentials. 

The 34-year-old, who broadcasts to around 5.6 million listeners each Monday to Thursday, fronted a five-part series for Shell called The Great Travel Hack.

The Top Gear-style programme followed two teams of competitors racing from London to Istanbul while using environmentally friendly vehicles.

Sources close to the PR campaign claimed that James was paid £100,000 to feature in the videos, which have been watched 81 million times since Shell uploaded them to its YouTube channel last October. 

Radio 1 DJ Greg James (pictured in July promoting the Radio 1 ‘Up Yours Corona’ campaign), was paid £100,000 by oil giant Shell to front an online campaign which plugged the company’s ‘green’ credentials

KAMAL AHMED, £209,999-a-year BBC salary: In February, the editorial director of BBC News apologised for accepting a £12,000 payment for speaking at a banker’s conference, adding that he will not be taking any money from organisers. 

Kamal Ahmed is understood to have received £12,000 for a 40-minute appearance at the Aberdeen Standard Investment’s conference, days after telling 450 of his colleagues that their jobs were being cut.

Ahmed – who is listed on the Speakers Associates website in the £10,000 to £25,000 per appearance category – took part in a panel discussion hosted by Steph McGovern, his former BBC colleague who now works for Channel 4.

He came under fire both publicly and within the BBC for his £12,000 fee for the event and subsequently sent an email to colleagues apologising.

Kamal Ahmed is understood to have received £12,000 for a 40-minute appearance at the Aberdeen Standard. The director, who earns between £205,000 and £209,999, is listed on the Speakers Associates website in the £10,000 to £25,000 per appearance category

Ahmed said in his email that he was asked ‘some months ago’ to talk about ‘economic issues’ by the investment firm and that he was not asked to talk about anything related to the BBC.

He is the previous Economics editor at the corporation. 

Ahmed, who earns between £205,000 and £209,999, was one of four senior BBC bosses who sat on bar stools as they announced the job cuts.

He drew criticism after he turned up for the ‘bloodbath’ announcement wearing a black T-shirt and casual trousers.  

Ahmed was one of four senior BBC bosses who sat on bar stools as they announced the job cuts. He drew criticism after he turned up for the ‘bloodbath’ announcement wearing a black T-shirt and casual trousers. Pictured, BBC executives Gavin Allen (left), Naja Nielson (second from left), Jonathan Munro (second from right) and Kamal Ahmed (right) as they announced the cuts

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