BBC journalists are becoming addicted to 'toxic' Twitter, bosses say

BBC journalists are becoming addicted to ‘toxic’ Twitter, bosses say as corporation launches review into social media use amid fears it is undermining impartiality rules

  • A key BBC figure revealed that the company has faced staff social media issues
  • The problems include reporters frequently backing left-wing liberal views online
  • Some BBC editorial staff have been disciplined for their use of social media
  • Reports say some BBC reporters are ‘addicted to Twitter’ and want to ‘go viral’  

Some BBC journalists have been disciplined by senior staff over their use of social media amid complaints they have overstepped the mark online.

A review commissioned by the BBC on how reporters and media organisations use online websites is expected within months. 

Leading the review is the corporation’s director of editorial policy and standards, David Jordan, who told the Lords communications and digital committee on Tuesday that too much left-liberal group thinking, rather than impartiality, has been adopted by reporters. 

Some BBC journalists have been warned over their use of social media, with some even disciplined for breaking social media guidelines 

BBC director of editorial policy and standards David Jordan revealed that a review into how reporters and media organisations use social media is underway

Mr Jordan said: ‘We have had issues about the use of social media in the BBC where people have not adhered to our standards or have overstepped the mark.

‘We have had issues, for example, about tracking the rise of Eurosceptism. Across the BBC, did we do that adequately? No, we didn’t. 

‘We had issues around tracking the growth of concern about immigration.

On Monday, the BBC will announce a fresh wave of job cuts in its news division – adding ‘significantly’ to the 450 previously planned.

It is thought up to 100 more staff will be axed. 

It is understood that workers will be told this afternoon that revised plans will mean cuts will be ‘deeper’ and more ‘wide-ranging’ than original proposals unveiled in January.

The earlier proposals lined up Newsnight, Radio 5 Live and BBC World Service to bear the brunt of the cuts.

But since January the BBC has had to find a further £125million of savings for 2020 in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Voluntary redundancy is being offered across the corporation’s 19,231 ‘public service’ staff.

BBC news insiders claim a high number of employees want to take it. Sources said there will be a video presentation by bosses to tell workers of the new plans this afternoon. 

The announcement at the start of the year was part of an £80million savings programme.

The BBC said at the time the plans would reduce duplication following criticism it sends reporters from different programmes to cover the same events.

Under the latest plans, BBC2 show Politics Live is expected to be saved, with sources suggesting it will lose one episode a week, probably on a Friday.

‘I hope we’ve learned from those experiences and we are applying them now to making sure we do understand what people right across the country in every part of the UK think.’

According to the Times, BBC staff are believed to be ‘addicted to Twitter’ and that those who were disciplined by the broadcaster were found guilty of breaking the organisation’s social media guidelines.

 In order to combat the issues, the BBC has appointed journalism professor at Cardiff University Richard Sambrook as a figure to help boost impartiality and accuracy amongst its employees online.

In recent months, renowned individuals such as Emily Maitlis, Huw Edwards and Andrew Neil have all faced complaints over their use of social media. 

Newsnight presenter Maitlis, 49, received 18 thousand complaints after a speech on the BBC Two show condemning the Government’s response to the Dominic Cummings incident this summer. 

The impartiality of fellow presenter Huw Edwards, 58, was called into question during the run-up to the 2019 general election after he ‘liked’ a tweet calling for the public to vote Labour.

The corporation’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg also received complaints by members of the public for a tweet made during the Dominic Cummings row.

Mr Jordan believes that social media websites can be ‘toxic’ and amid a desire to go viral which could overshadow an editorial necessity for impartiality and accuracy.

He added: ‘The way social media has developed in recent times, particularly Twitter, has become adversarial, more argumentative, more combative, more polarised and sometimes toxic. 

‘It can suck people in, the immediacy of it can be alluring, the live dynamics of it can be seductive to some people.’ 

The corporation is also set to announce 100 more job losses in the news department in a bid to make savings.

The BBC announced earlier this month that 450 members of staff would initially lose their jobs with programmes such as Newsnight, Radio 5 Live and BBC World Service feeling the effects of the cuts.

The corporation is set to announce a further 100 job cuts in its news division, taking the total number of losses this week to 550

Since January, the organisation has had to find a further £125million of savings for 2020 in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. 

John Whittingdale, currently serving as a minister of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, claimed that metropolitan broadcasters did not grasp the feeling on the country outside of London during recent major political events such as the Brexit referendum and the 2019 general election.

Mr Whittingdale said: ‘Clearly the changes in political viewpoints taking place particularly in the north of England did not seem to be recognised sufficiently in the newsrooms in the southeast of England and that is something I think broadcasters are aware of.’

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