Twitter: BBC opposes ‘government-funded media’ label

  • James Clayton, North American Technology Correspondent & Adam Durbin
  • BBC News

The BBC has objected to the new label, describing it as “state-funded media” on its main Twitter account.

The Corporation has contacted the social media giant about the post on the @BBC account to “resolve the issue as soon as possible”.

“The BBC has always been independent. We are funded by the British public through the license fee,” it said.

Elon Musk has said he believes the BBC is one of the “least biased” outlets.

When BBC News highlighted to the Twitter boss that the corporation was funding licensing fees, Mr Musk responded in an email: “Is the Twitter label accurate?”

He suggested that he would consider issuing a label that links to “proper funding sources”.

It is unclear whether this applies to other media as well.

In a separate email to clarify his earlier comments, Mr Musk wrote: “We aim for maximum transparency and accuracy. Linking to ownership and funding source makes sense. I think media companies should be self-aware and not lie. Bias is completely absent.

“All organizations have biases, some more obviously than others. I should note that I follow BBC News on Twitter because I think it’s the least bit biased.”

The amount of the £159 ($197) annual license fee – which is required by law to watch live TV broadcasts or live streaming in the UK – is set by the government, but is paid by individual UK households.

The account primarily shares updates on TV programmes, radio programmes, podcasts and other non-news material produced by the BBC.

stamp Links through a page on Twitter’s help website “Government-linked media accounts” are defined as “outlets where the government exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressure, and/or control over production and distribution.”

The BBC’s charter states that the company “must be independent”, particularly in “editorial and creative decisions, the timing and manner in which its output and services are provided, and the management of its affairs”.

Twitter’s new labeling of the BBC account comes after it did the same to the handle of US public broadcaster NPR.

The social media company initially described NPR as a “state-linked media outlet” — a label given to outlets including Russia’s RT and China’s Xinhua News.

The designation was later changed to the same “government-funded media” tag now used for the @BBC account. NPR said it would stop tweeting from the account.

The BBC receives more than £90m a year from the government to support the BBC World Service, which mainly serves non-UK audiences.

The national broadcaster’s output is paid for through the work of commercial subsidiaries such as BBC Studios and through advertising for services offered to viewers outside the UK.

  • Watch or record programs being shown on any TV channel
  • Watch or stream shows live on any online TV service – for example, All 4, YouTube or Amazon Prime Video
  • Download or watch any BBC program on BBC iPlayer

Television license evasion is not an offense punishable by imprisonment. However, non-payment of fines following a criminal conviction can lead to imprisonment – a “last resort” after other enforcement methods have failed.

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