The BBC have outlined new guidelines regarding what employees can and cannot post on their personal social media accounts.
Previously, HRreview explored what rights employers have to discipline staff over personal social media posts in light of the BBC’s statement of an “incoming, updated policy of appropriate social media usage for employees”.
Now, the BBC have released their own guidelines to employees regarding this which will “force staff to maintain impartiality”. As part of this, employees have been told not to “express a personal opinion on matters of public policy, politics or controversial topics”.
Specifically, these new rules come into force in many areas of employees’ lives – in terms of public expressions of opinion, taking part in campaigns and participating in marches or protests, allegedly including Pride parades and Black Lives Matter protests.
Regardless of whether workers at the BBC are releasing social media posts on professional or personal platforms, this regulation applies. Due to this, employees have been warned against using the phrase ‘My views, not the BBC’s” on their social media platforms as the broadcasting company has stated this provides “no defence against personal expressions of opinion”. Liking, retweeting, following or sharing “controversial” content would also fall under these rules and employees have been told to “avoid bias” in this area.
However, these rules have caused some controversy within the past few days. Director General of the BBC, Tim Davie, was forced to clarify these rules by stating that employees were, in fact, allowed to attend events such as Pride parades.
Mr. Davie stated:
There is no ban on attending Pride parades.
The guidance that we published yesterday made it very clear that staff outside of news and current affairs and factual journalism may attend marches, demonstrations and protests as private individuals.
There are different considerations for staff who work in news and current affairs and factual journalism (and senior leaders) but I want to be clear that there is no issue for these staff attending community events that are clearly celebratory or commemorative and do not compromise perceptions of their impartiality.
If news and current affairs staff are participating in such events they must be mindful of ensuring that they do not get involved in matters which could be deemed political or controversial. There is no ban on these staff attending Pride events.
However, the broadcasting union Bectu criticised these new guidelines:
Bectu has asked the BBC for an urgent meeting to discuss the intentions behind its new guidelines. We are frankly dismayed that unions were not properly consulted prior to the publication of such an important document.
There is a huge amount of confusion and conjecture regarding what the guidelines mean and this is causing much distress amongst the Bectu membership and the workforce more generally.
The suggestion that the application of the policy could be left to Manager’s discretion has left some of our members fearful that they will no longer be able to attend events that are important to their identity without fear of repercussions at work. Whilst Bectu understands and supports the fundamental principle that the BBC should be politically impartial, we believe that any restrictions on staff and freelancers working at the BBC must be proportionate and should not impinge upon their freedom of expression on matters of equality.