Sometimes the BBC is its own worst enemy. Today, the Corporation issued new guidelines for its stars over their use of social media. The rules are clumsy and naive, as unworkable as they are misguided. If this is an early indicator of what we can expect from the new director-general, Tim Davie, his reign promises to be a farcical few years.
三级成人视频The new guidelines, published today, include a ban on “virtue signalling”, “controversial opinions”, posting any criticism of colleagues, or journalists breaking stories on their own accounts. Staff have also been warned that emojis can “undercut an otherwise impartial post” – and that liking or following certain accounts can be enough to count as sharing a personal opinion on an issue.
This begs many more questions than it solves problems. Is this nanny state-ish micro-management really necessary? Will the BBC be monitoring what its people say down the pub and around watercoolers as well? Does this apply to freelancers and contracted talent or just those on the payroll? Does the world’s most admired public service broadcaster want its staff to be employees or journalists? Actual human beings or dead-eyed corporate automata?
三级成人视频These ridiculous rules are already being ripped apart by its stars – ironically enough, on Twitter. The 5Live presenter Nihal Arthanayake, for instance, was wry, his eye-roll almost audible:
Botanist James Wong, a regular on Countryfile and Gardeners’ Question Time, was more strident, saying: “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.”
三级成人视频As an indicator of how Kafka-esque this unholy mess has become, BBC News journalist Brian Whelan replied to Wong with: “Hi James. For balance, can you please now also tweet the opposite of what you believe?”
Even the deeply vanilla newsreader Huw Edwards quoted the guidance on how the “use of emojis can – accidentally or deliberately – undercut an otherwise impartial post”. He promptly adorned his Tweet with not one but 16 Welsh flags.
Already, it’s clear that these wrong-headed rules are impossible to enforce. To be in any way effective, they will need a dedicated team to “police” Twitter, asking stars to delete any tweets deemed transgressive or reporting them to bosses.
It all has the uneasy whiff of Big Brother – and we mean the Orwell’s totalitarian figurehead, not the house-sharing reality show. Will the public also be able to “shop” BBC staff who they believe have committed crimes against social media? It could descend into toxic, name-calling chaos.
三级成人视频Besides, “controversial” opinions are in the eye of the beholder. One tweet might be deemed contentious by a middle-England Tory, while another is equally unpalatable to a “woke” North Londoner. See the replies under any Tweet by political editor Laura Kuenssberg, who is regularly accused of bias by both Left and Right:
By using phrases such as “virtual signalling”, the BBC has already been drawn into a phoney culture war. Codifying this notion by using it in an official document demonstrates the BBC is painting itself into a dark corner. If it carries on adopting such reactionary, lazily dismissive language and using it to flagellate itself, it risks looking very foolish indeed. It’s giving further fuel to its detractors by attempting to appease them.
The BBC defined “virtue-signalling” as “retweets, likes or joining online campaigns to indicate a personal view, no matter how apparently worthy the cause”. They must avoid being seen to support any campaigns at all, such as by using hashtags, regardless of “how much their message appears to be accepted or uncontroversial”.
Is supporting Black Lives Matter or highlighting racism now seen as “virtue signalling”? Is supporting footballer Marcus Rashford's heroic efforts to end child food poverty? Is wearing a poppy?
By banning “virtue signalling", it’s clear who the BBC is trying to placate. In fact, using the term in its impartiality guidelines means the BBC might well have broken them. If it wasn't so darkly dystopian, it would be funny.
As Wong said: “‘Virtue signalling’ isn’t an objective concept.” He continued:
Meanwhile, actor Stephen Mangan, who last week hosted panel show Have I Got News For You, was more strident, raging: “What? ‘Virtue signalling’ is a bulls--t Right-wing insult to try to silence anyone who suggests some consideration for others. Its use signals a--eholery.”
These ham-fisted new measures are highly unlikely to stop high-profile stars such as Gary Lineker from expressing opinions, backing causes or cracking satirical jokes – which is what kickstarted this whole hollow controversy.
The likes of Lineker are a grey area anyway. Staff in news, current affairs and other factual journalism will apparently be held to higher impartiality standards than other employees. Who decides which BBC staff fall into which camp? Is Lineker a factual sports journalist, a maverick pundit or an entertainment presenter? Surely he’s a mix of all three.
三级成人视频Only yesterday, Rashford presciently asked on Twitter: “What is virtue signalling anyway?” to which Linker swiftly responded: “It’s an insult thrown at people who have high moral standards, usually by people who don’t have high moral standards.” So this all seems to be working well.
It would surely be easier, in practical terms at least, for the BBC to simply suggest that its stars leave Twitter altogether. Again, though, this would look like tyrannical censorship and a gross overreaction to a minor cultural skirmish. It would also seem horribly out-of-step with the modern media landscape.
三级成人视频And 2020 was going so well. The BBC had a pretty positive lockdown. An anxious nation trusted it to tell the truth about the pandemic and its ratings shot up. The events of this week risk undoing the goodwill it has built up. With this latest, desperate bid to appear impartial and appease its noisy critics, the BBC has got itself in another idiotic tangle. It’s somehow trolling its own staff and only storing up more trouble.
三级成人视频There’s a lot that needs fixing at the BBC, but this isn’t the way to do it. If you don’t believe me, look at Twitter. Just be careful which emojis you use.