BBC Launches Social Media Review Following Gary Lineker Scandal – Deadline

The BBC has launched its review into social media guidance in the wake of the Gary Lineker scandal, with former ITN CEO John Hardie set to oversee it.

The review, which was announced by BBC Director-General Tim Davie earlier this month, will start immediately and finish over the summer.

Hardie, a former CEO and Editor-in-Chief of the ITV News, Channel 4 News and Channel 5 News operator, will examine:

  • Which freelancers are covered by the guidance?
  • What impartiality requirements should apply to freelancers, if any? If so, how should they be defined?
  • Are all freelancers covered by the same requirements?

The review will take into account “social media use of those working in the on-air freelance community outside News, Current Affairs and Factual journalism,” said its terms of reference. Hardie will consult the freelance community, BBC staff and trade unions while considering wider market and audience research.

Once published, changes to the social media guidance will need to be agreed by the BBC’s Executive Committee.

Today’s review was ordered following the Lineker fallout, in which the Match of the Day host was benched following a tweet comparing the language around the government’s asylum policy to that of 1930s Germany. His benching led to a walkout by dozens of presenters, pundits and commentators and, having to the review with Davie, he returned to presenting duties the following weekend.

“The BBC has important commitments to both impartiality and to freedom of expression,” said Davie. “We also have a commitment to those working with us, and for us, to be clear in what we expect from them. The social media guidance is crucial to achieving this, particularly in a fast-paced, ever- changing world of digital media.”

A similar review into social media impartiality for news journalists was carried out by former BBC Global News Director Richard Sambrook three years ago. Deadline revealed earlier this month that the BBC failed to heed advice in that review to establish specific rules for freelance presenters such as Lineker.

The BBC’s current social media guidance remains in place during Hardie’s review, guidance that has had its waters tested by Lineker over the past fortnight or so.

Hardie said he will “approach the task with no preconceptions and an open mind,” adding: “I look forward to hearing from a wide range of voices, from both inside and outside the BBC, as the work progresses.”

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