Staff Twitter Mastheads

Peter Martin made this Freedom of Information request to British Broadcasting Corporation

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by British Broadcasting Corporation.

Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

Twitter forms a significant part of BBC staff dissemination and acquisition of news and opinion.

A variety of formats of profile exist in carrying this out, the three main ones appearing to be:

1) Official BBC pages, branded as such
2) 'Personal' pages, but still branded on mastheads/bios with BBC logos, job specs, etc.
3) Purely personal pages

1) & 2) are often promoted using BBC broadcast capabilities; 3) can, or rather should.. not.

For 2) alone, it is noted that often some form of disclaimer can be used, such as 'views my own'. For these:

a) Do BBC staff need to submit these pages for approval by BBC superiors?

b) If not, but as BBC-branded and published using BBC-associations, why not?

c) Are these disclaimers their own creation?

d) If not, who has created and recommended their use?

e) Who intervenes should the views of BBC staff, no matter how much 'their own', create problems by their association with the BBC?

f) Where are such interventions logged?

g) What is the trigger level of intervention that would see disciplinary measures enacted?

Yours faithfully,

Peter Martin

FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

Dear Peter Martin

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as detailed in your email below. Your request was received on 29 May 2015. We will deal with your request as promptly as possible, and at the latest within 20 working days. If you have any queries about your request, please contact us at the address below.

The reference number for your request is RFI20150877.

Kind regards

The Information Policy & Compliance Team

BBC Freedom of Information
BC2 B6, Broadcast Centre
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TP
Email: [BBC request email]

Tel: 020 8008 2882

Charlene Grant
Assistant to Lawyers
BBC | Legal | Workplace & Information Rights
BC2 A4, 201 Wood Lane, London W12 7TP
T: 020 800 81921
E: [email address]
BBC Legal Intranet:

Legal advice in this email is privileged and confidential and should not be forwarded by email or otherwise to another recipient.

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FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Martin


Please find attached the response to your request for information,
reference RFI20150877.


Kind regards

BBC Information Policy and Compliance
BC2 A4, 201 Wood Lane, London W12 7TP





Visible links

Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of British Broadcasting Corporation's handling of my FOI request 'Staff Twitter Mastheads'.

I was concerned as the latest was headed 'final response'. That is very... final... but luckily appears more to mean being kicked up the road, hopefully not eventually into the long grass. Luckily...

"If you are not satisfied that we have complied with the Act in responding to your request, you
have the right to an internal review by a BBC senior manager or legal adviser."

I'm not really, so let's give what you kindly offer a go, if noting a BBC senior manager or legal adviser reviewing the responses of BBC colleagues hardly reassures as to impartiality, especially if anything strays from the ruthlessly objective.

"As per our previous response to your request RFI 20150481, please note that the information you
have requested in paragraphs (a) to (g) is excluded from the Act because it is held for the
purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ "

Yes, that route to exclusion has been attempted before, and I am appealing that with the ICO as the option afforded here to first appeal to a manager seemed not on offer that time, so here's where I would demand greater satisfaction:

Almost all behind my inquiries stem from BBC staff, using BBC branding on twitter, saying things 'personally' that one presumes they acknowledge can only reflect on their employer, the BBC and their jobs for the BBC in a corporate sense, yet it seems the BBC has issued some form of disclaimer that follows the basic format of 'views my own', etc.

That would appear to suggest that they have been told, and hence are trying, to create the impression of the corporate professional being the purely personal.

If so, how can information on the purely personal (in terms of anonymous summaries as requested), even if held by the BBC as it must be, possibly be deemed 'journalism, art or literature' in a corporate sense?

"information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output or information that supports and is closely associated with these creative activities"

Are such staff tweets BBC output or not? If not the exclusion cannot apply. If so the exclusion should not be entertained. And serious questions on a very grey, Wild West area of BBC 'broadcast' getting asked.

The BBC, and in turn such staff, cannot have it all ways, though of course to now this is exactly what appears to be being attempted.

"You can put the brand/logo of your network, programme or event on a third party site. This has the advantage of transparency. Remember that a BBC logo is intended to give the impression that this is a genuine, authorised, BBC presence so the nature of that presence should reflect credit on the brand."

"when someone clearly identifies their association with the BBC and/or discusses their work, they are expected to behave appropriately when on the Internet, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC's editorial values and policies."

This at best seems a serious weakness in definition, management and oversight, and can and has lead to some astonishing ongoing faux pas over a protracted period, which clearly continue to the present and look set to endure if no changes are contemplated. Such changes being unlikely if any concerns on failures and requests to understand the situation behind them is met with blanket dismissal by the BBC.

Whilst BBC policies are always interesting, as one concerned with their failures they really serve more as historical reference, too often observed in the breach. But thank you for the shares.

There is clearly overlap in play between personal and corporate, as staff tweets and even accounts can disappear, often at the same time as corporate PR crisis management has been engaged. Hence...

"...such information would be held on behalf of another person (the employee) who is not a public authority to whom the Act applies (because the employee would be acting in a personal capacity, outside of the ambit of their professional role at the BBC)".

... is not really credible. Or at the very least trying to attempt a massive 'nudge-nudge, wink-wink' cake possession and consumption effort.

As per a previous response to a previous refusal:

There is clearly a problem of epic historical and ongoing nature, that the BBC apparently cannot and will not face up to.

2011 -

2014 -

Just recently -

Faith in the BBC's ability to address such things eroded by the 4 year time span above and, from the latter:

"The BBC appeared to get into a tangle as it contradicted her explanations and strongly denied that any tweets had been sent saying the Queen had died.
In a statement a spokesperson said: “During a technical rehearsal for an obituary, tweets were mistakenly sent from the account of a BBC journalist saying that a member of the royal family had been taken ill. “The tweets were swiftly deleted and we apologise for any offence.” A spokeswoman insisted there was no evidence that a tweet had been sent which said the Queen had died. “I do not think any tweet was sent from this account that said the Queen had died,” she said. However, a screen grab appearing to show the tweet was published by the NBC News website. The corporation refused to give any details of how the error happened or whether Ms Khawaja was in the same building as the dress rehearsal."

The detail-refusing 'spokespeople' were from the BBC Press Office, originators of a tweet (ironically) that inspired this story, also recently:

"The corporation's press office retweeted - and then quickly deleted - a message slamming Mr Whittingdale's voting record on gay rights, the hunting ban and a host of other unrelated issues to his new brief as Culture Secretary.

A BBC spokesman yesterday morning insisted the corporation was 'looking forward to working with the new Secretary of State'.
He also insisted that the re-tweet of the critical message had been a mistake which did not reflect the BBC's view.
The spokesman said: 'The tweet referred to was tweeted at the BBC and not produced by us but it was inadvertently retweeted – that was never the intention and it was immediately deleted.' "

The Press Office directed to for consultation on... how not to provide further details when surely of public interest?

"When a staff member is contacted by the press about posts on their social networking site that relate to the BBC they should talk to their manager before responding. The relevant BBC press office must be consulted."

Please therefore forgive me if options of BBC internal oversight in such matters remain felt less than appropriate, objective or likely effective, but let us afford the benefit of the doubt here as more senior or legally-attuned eyes and brains are engaged.

You never know, answering and facing up to what I raise in my questions may even help prevent further embarrassment.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:

Yours faithfully,

Peter Martin

Data Protection Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

Dear Mr Martin,

As we have previously explained to you, the BBC does not offer an internal review when the information requested is not covered by the Act. If you disagree with the BBC’s decision that the information is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art, or literature’ you can complain directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office. We apologise for not making this clearer in our original response to this request.

Kind regards

BBC Information Policy and Compliance

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Dear Data Protection Enquiries,

It is maybe I who should apologise... clearly?

I appear to have misunderstood what this meant as explained to me previously:

"Appeal Rights
If you are not satisfied that we have complied with the Act in responding to your request, you
have the right to an internal review by a BBC senior manager or legal adviser. Please contact us at
the address above, explaining what you would like us to review and including your reference

Seems more a matter of outright misinformation rather than clarity, mind. However thank you for the new advice:

"If you disagree with the BBC’s decision that the information is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art, or literature’ you can complain directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office."

I do, and will. With luck it will go to the correct address as advised.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Martin

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