MPs express their concerns over the BBC’s updated social media policy, claiming that it threatens the broadcaster’s impartiality by permitting figures like Gary Lineker to openly express anti-Tory political views.
BBC’s Updated Rules
The new guidelines state that stars on ‘flagship programmes’ can freely voice their opinions on issues they care about, even those subjects under public political debate.
However, they are prohibited from endorsing or criticizing specific political parties or individual UK politicians while their shows are on air.
Criticism from MPs
Several MPs criticize these guidelines, suggesting that they open the door for presenters to express their views without significant restrictions.
Brendan Clarke-Smith argues that the rules appear to lack constraints, except for explicitly endorsing a political party like Labour.
Challenges to Impartiality
Jonathan Gullis and Karl McCartney add their voices to the criticism, contending that the BBC is no longer impartial due to these guidelines.
McCartney predicts negative consequences for both the broadcaster and individual presenters.
Freedom of Expression Acknowledged
The BBC defends the new guidance for flagship programmes, emphasizing the importance of freedom of expression.
Critics Accuse BBC of Empowering Presenters
Critics argue that the guidelines are open-ended and vaguely defined, potentially empowering presenters like Gary Lineker to continue commenting on contentious issues.
Chris Packham, not covered by these rules, is mentioned as an example of a BBC host who might still engage in such activities.
Strict Rules for News and Journalism Staff
BBC staff working in news, current affairs, and factual journalism are held to stricter impartiality rules compared to other on-air stars.
Origins of the New Rules
The new rules stem from a review conducted by former ITN chief executive John Hardie following the impartiality crisis sparked by Gary Lineker’s social media comparison of government language to 1930s Germany.
Mixed Reactions to the Guidelines
Despite the new guidelines, there are complaints that they remain confusing and open to interpretation. Tory MP Peter Bone emphasizes the importance of political neutrality for state broadcasters, especially when presenters are well-compensated.
Balancing Views and Campaigning
John Hardie’s recommendations suggest that high-profile presenters should be allowed to express views on issues and policies but refrain from actively campaigning for political parties or activist organizations.
Open Interpretation of Rules
Richard Ayre, former head of the BBC’s editorial policy, speculates that the guidelines may still allow tweets like Lineker’s comparison of government rhetoric to Nazi propaganda, as they are open to interpretation.