BBC gets tough on journalists’ blogging
[του James Robinson για το guardian.co.uk, 7 October 2009 17.45 BST] The BBC Trust today unveiled a new set of editorial guidelines that could lead to changes to the content its journalists can post online (Draft guidelines state ‘Nothing should be written by BBC journalists and presenters that would not be said on-air’). The draft guidelines, which cover everything from bad language to impartiality, state that: «Nothing should be written by [BBC] journalists and presenters that would not be said on-air.»
Some industry observers are already referring to that as the «Jeremy Bowen clause». The BBC’s highly-regarded Middle East editor, was censured by the Trust in April for loose phrasing in a potted history of post-war Israel, which appeared on the BBC News website.
«Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC programmes or other BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists and presenters on such matters,» the new guidance says.
«This applies as much to online content as it does to news bulletins. Nothing should be written by journalists and presenters that would not be said on-air».
The draft guidelines also make it clear that bad language should not automatically be permitted even after the 9pm watershed, when many children are still watching or listening to its programmes. «It may be necessary to edit or bleep language, even post-watershed,» the guidelines say.
The new measures follow audience research carried out by the trust, which found that licence fee payers: «Accept that strong language can be appropriate within a programme but dislike it when used unnecessarily or excessively.»
The research also revealed public concern over «inappropriate intimidation and humiliation» on TV and radio, a clear reference to the «Sachsgate» controversy.
Two of the BBC’s most popular broadcasters, Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, left abusive messages on actor Andrew Sachs’s answer phone last year during a programme for Radio 2. Brand and Lesley Douglas, the station’s controller, resigned. Jonathan Ross was suspended.
The BBC said: «Some comedy can be cruel but unduly intimidatory, humiliating, intrusive, aggressive or derogatory remarks must not be celebrated for the purposes of entertainment. Care should be taken that such comments and the tone in which they are delivered are proportionate to their target.»
Ross has also been criticised for several interviews on his Friday night chatshow. He asked Conservative leader David Cameron if he masturbated over pictures of Margaret Thatcher and told actress Gwyneth Paltrow «he would fuck her».
The BBC’s editorial guidelines are reviewed once every five years, but they have never been put to the public before.
«Public acceptability is constantly changing, so it is right that we should reflect on the standards the BBC should be setting, as well as ask licence fee payers what they think when reviewing the guidelines,» said Richard Tait, a BBC trustee and chair of the trust’s editorial standards committee.