BBC Editorial Policy on Blogs

The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines site is a handy reference for programme makers and journalists (and possibly members of the public who wish to know what we worry about). There’s a particularly useful list of advice, concerning things like conflict of interest, funding for make-over programmes, game show prizes, and the like. Something that’s recently popped up there is an entry for ‘Blogs BBC Policy on Personal Blogs WIKI’ (sic).

The link goes to a BBC internal site, which of course is not available from outwith the BBC. All I can guess is that it’s running the Confluence commercial wiki software, which implies that the ‘BBC Policy on Personal Blogs’ is somehow under discussion and/or being updated by a group within the BBC.

Anyone know any more about what’s going on? And why is it linked from an advice site intended, supposedly equally, for external suppliers? It’s not that I smell a conspiracy, I’m just curious.

9 thoughts on “BBC Editorial Policy on Blogs”

  1. No idea, but you win a Going Native Token for use of the word ‘outwith’, a word without which no respectable dialect of English should be,
    as anyone who’s ever been perplexed by a green hill will surely aver, far away or otherwise.
    Kirsty Wark and Sarah Smith maintain a competition to say ‘outwith’ as many times as possible whilst interviewing politicians fae outwith Scotland. I find it quite uplifting.
    (Going Native Token redeemable for a pint of Younger’s No. 3, if you should happen to know of a pub which sells it.)

  2. It’s not an exclusively Scottish thing, interestingly. In Beverley, East Yorkshire, the road out of the town centre through the old gated wall is split into ‘North Bar Within’ and ‘North Bar Without.’

  3. It partly started because I decided to ask if the BBC actually /had/ a policy on web blogs, given that people have been sacked from some companies for running a personal weblog and expressing their personal opinions.
    It doesn’t so everything falls back on editorial policy (even if you’re as public facing as a cleaner), which is possibly why it’s linked from there, possibly accidentally. There is a draft under discussion at the moment (as surmised), but what it will contain in the final revision is debate-able.
    8 months after the original question was asked I decided to revert to simply using the old fashioned approach rather than wait for someone to set a policy 🙂

  4. Hi – I am the person who is developing Guidelines on BBC people’s personal blogs. I put a link to the external WIKI from the public Editorial Guidelines site so that people people could go there and comment. It is not ideal that other people cannot see it. But at least if an independent producer had an issue with a blog they would know we had something and then would contact us direct.

  5. Hi Michael, Nick. Firstly, thanks for taking the time to respond and secondly, I’m gobsmacked that you found this site. I don’t exactly have a large readership, and it always surprises me when ‘the right person’ somehow finds their way here.
    Your explanation is pretty much what I expected: as I said, I was just curious. I’ll be interested to see what the final policy is. The only real complication I can spot is journalists inadvertently dropping a source in the schtuck because the source didn’t understand they were a publisher too. I guess it’s not clear what the journalist’s responsibility would be in such circumstances. Legally I’d assume ‘very little,’ but should one alert a source to a blog post that would be OK had they whispered in it your ear, but is potentially libellous when blogged?
    Ah, the joys of abstracting general cases. I don’t envy you, Nick.

  6. You raise an interesting example Jonathan. But I would say that the situation would be no different on a blog from anywhere else. One of the cardinal principles of most journalists is to protect sources. Blogs are not like a conversation in a pub or a private conversation. They are a public conversation – more like a public meeting than anything else. I would expect journalists and sources to understand this.
    So, if you don’t want people to know, don’t blog!
    Incidentally I have yet to see a satisfactory definition of what a blog is. But whatever it is, it’s public.

  7. Oh no, I think you’re quite right, Nick. I think journalists do understand that a blog is a public conversation, and the implications of that. But arguably, this is part of why bloggers mostly aren’t journalists in the traditional sense. I’d suggest that most bloggers don’t understand the law surrounding publication, libel, and defamation.
    To whatever extent this is a problem, I think it’s (a.) transient. People will learn, once they find they have to, and (b.) not the journalist’s problem anyway. A journalist, BBC or otherwise, clearly has no duty to advise a blogger if their writings are potentially libellous.
    It’s curious, however, how ‘protecting one’s source’ used to mean ‘safeguarding their identity,’ but may come to mean ‘protecting them from their own crass stupidity.’ Though, come to think of it, perhaps those are the same things.

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