BBC employees have been told they must not bring the corporation “into disrepute”, in new guidance on social media use.
The directives apply to “everyone working at the BBC whether they are using social media professionally or personally”, and instruct staff to refrain from criticising colleagues in public and “respect the privacy of the workplace and the confidentiality of internal announcements.”
Another rule states: “If your work requires you to maintain your impartiality, don’t express a personal opinion on matters of public policy, politics, or ‘controversial subjects’.”
— BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) October 29, 2020
The guidance also includes dos and do nots to avoid perceptions of bias; guidance on sharing expressions of opinion; guidance on avoiding bias through follows, likes or re-posting and shares; and tougher guidelines for some staff in news, current affairs, factual journalism, senior leadership, and a small number of presenters who have a significant public profile.
This includes the instruction: “Do remember that your personal brand on social media is always secondary to your responsibility to the BBC.”
It adds: “Do not be drawn into ill-tempered exchanges, or exchanges that will reflect badly on you, or the BBC. Do not post when your judgment may be impaired. Never use your BBC status to seek personal gain or pursue personal campaigns.”
Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker, who has recently taken a pay cut at the BBC, and BBC News political editor Laura Kuenssberg are among the figures who have previously been criticised for their social media posts.
Lineker has become known for being forthright with his views on the social media platform and has spoken out on topics including Brexit, racism and coronavirus.
The social media rules are part of a new set of instructions and guidance, alongside new training, that aim to “ensure the highest possible standards of impartiality across the organisation”.
New director-general Tim Davie warned BBC staff over their use of social media in September.
Addressing workers at the corporation’s Cardiff office, he said: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media, then that is a valid choice – but you should not be working at the BBC.”
The BBC will also introduce a Parliament-style register of outside earnings for staff taking part in public speaking commitments or other public appearances.
A standardised approval process will be introduced, as well as a central register of requests in each department.
A quarterly summary of these events will also be published, starting in the new year, for all senior leaders, presenters and on-air staff working in journalism roles across the BBC.
The corporation said the period until January will allow time to implement the new system “alongside a short period for individuals to consider the merits of engagements they may have committed to in the light of the new rules coming into force”.
Question Time host Fiona Bruce, BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty and North America editor Jon Sopel have all been criticised for taking on other paid work.
Mr Davie has previously said there will be “clearer direction on the declaration of external interests”.