BBC announces new guidance on online content

h/t MD

An interesting post by the BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, David Jordan, appeared on the BBC blog on June 17th. The post is titled “Should the BBC unpublish any of its online content?” and in it Mr Jordan announced the publication of new BBC Editorial Policy Guidance regarding the removal or amendment of BBC online content.

The new guidance appears to have been prompted by last month’s EU court ruling on what has been termed ‘the right to be forgotten’ and, like that case itself, the guidance relates mainly to the topic of requests for removal of content from individuals.

However, as Mr Jordan himself states in his post:

“Our online news is far more accessible today than the newspaper archives of libraries. But in principle there is no difference between them: both are historical records. Fundamentally it is in the public interest to retain them intact.”

That, of course, is true only so long as those “historical records” are correct. It is not, however, in the public interest to have historical records which are misleading, inaccurate or politically biased – especially from an organisation which enjoys the public’s trust – and funding.

We have previously highlighted on these pages some examples of the type of old – but available – BBC content which does not serve the public interest. One prominent example is that of the BBC’s perpetuation of the myth of a ‘Jenin massacre’ in 2002. Another is its unsatisfactory approach to content concerning the Al Dura case of 2000. Other problematic issues include the appearance of long out of date maps on the BBC website – such as the one purporting to show Israeli checkpoints – which are not labelled to inform BBC audiences that they are no longer relevant and the ongoing obstinate BBC promotion of the myth that Ariel Sharon started the second Intifada .

Some of the particularly interesting clauses appearing in the new guidance read as follows:

“However long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it.”


“Claims that an item is inaccurate, biased or seriously misleading must be properly investigated by the originating content team where possible. Such complaints may, at the complainant’s discretion, be referred through the BBC’s published complaints procedure up to the BBC Trust.”

Obviously, the BBC’s recognition of the permanence of its online material on the one hand and on the other of the fact that no matter how old the material, it can still be the subject of legitimate complaint, poses a potentially overwhelming task for the BBC’s self-regulating complaints system.

That fact makes it all the more important for newly produced content to be truly accurate and impartial but, as we have seen only recently, the “historical records” of the none-too-distant future will inform the public that the 2013/14 round of negotiations between Israel and the PLO ended solely because ‘Israel broke off the talks’ and there will be no historical record whatsoever of Palestinian celebrations of the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers.

Clearly, greater adherence to standards of accuracy and impartiality in contemporary content should be a cause for concern for the BBC’s Director of Editorial Policy and Standards, as should another issue which has been frequently written about here.

In his blog post Mr Jordan announces:

“The Guidance Note also sets out the need for transparency and that we should normally explain what changes we have made to our online content for example, why programmes are no longer available on BBC iPlayer or have been changed since original broadcast. To this end, the BBC will be launching in July a new way of signalling this information. In future if a programme has been edited since broadcast in a way that significantly changes the editorial meaning, we will tell you at point of play. Also if there is a small editorial error in a programme we can let you know the correction before you watch it.”

That welcome improvement must also be extended to the BBC News website, where the lack of a dedicated corrections page, along with a slapdash ‘sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t’ policy concerning footnotes announcing corrections, severely compromise any supposed commitment to transparency. 

4 comments on “BBC announces new guidance on online content

  1. More corrupt BBC twaddle.

    If the BBC can spend £250,000 of licence fee payers’ money suppressing the 2004 internal Balen report into its Isra-hate coverage, how much easier and cheaper will it be not to remove its Isra-hate lies and libels about the “Jenin massacre” that wasn’t.

    Meanwhile, the judge is summing up in the paedophilia trial of BBC entertainer Rolf Harris (84) dating from 1978. Other BBC paedophilia trials are due after this one.

    • And lo, Google News today reports the start of the paedophilia trial of ex-pop singer “Gary Glitter” (Paul Gadd), made famous in the 1970s on the BBC’s “Top of The Pops” show, often hosted by the late BBC paedophile, Sir Jimmy Savile.

      “Published: 11:43am, 19th June 2014
      Updated: 2:35pm, 19th June 2014

      Gary Glitter has appeared in court accused of plying a schoolgirl with alcohol so he could have sex with her.

      The former pop star faces a string of charges relating to alleged sex offences against two under-age girls in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

      Making his first court appearance over the allegations today, the 70-year-old sat in the dock and listened through a hearing loop

      Dressed in a beige three-piece suit, pink shirt, cream scarf and wearing tinted glasses, Glitter spoke only to confirm his name, age and address during a hearing lasting less than five minutes at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

      Looking tanned and sporting a white goatee beard, Glitter, who appeared under his real name Paul Gadd, removed his Panama hat before the start of the proceedings.

      He spoke slowly and in a clear voice to give his personal details, spelling out his surname.

      Deputy chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot asked defence barrister Christopher Ware why Glitter was wearing sunglasses.

      He replied that his client had a “medical condition” and meant “no disrespect” to the court.

      Glitter, from Marylebone in central London, is accused of eight charges, with six relating to one girl and two to another.

      He is accused of four counts of indecent assault against the first alleged victim, who was aged 12 or 13 at the time, between January 1977 and December that year.

      Glitter is accused of administering a drug – “namely alcohol” – with the intention to “stupefy or overpower” the girl to enable him to have sex with her between January and May 1977.

      He also faces one charge of unlawful intercourse with a girl aged under 13 between the same dates.

      The former singer is accused of another two counts of indecent assault against a second complainant, who was aged 13 or 14 at the time, between October 1979 and December 1980.

      Judge Arbuthnot bailed Glitter until a hearing at Southwark Crown Court on July 3.

      He was surrounded by photographers as he left following today’s hearing, before being driven off in a black taxi.”

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