BBC releases blogging guidelines for employees

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The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has released a guideline for its employees who maintain weblogs or websites. The guidelines, which can be downloaded as a Word document here but I’ve also reprinted it below, are noteworthy in that the BBC accepts that employees who blog “discuss their BBC work in ways that benefit the BBC.”

Employee blogs, for the most part, benefit the organization they work for and companies would do well to embrace blogging as one way to communicate with the public they are serving.

The BBC went as far as stating in the guidelines: “You are allowed to update your personal blog from a BBC computer at work, under the BBC’s Acceptable Use Policy.”

I’ve never encountered problems at work with my blogging. I sought my editors’ permission before I started this blog and consult with them when I’m unsure of the propriety of a blog post. Blogging helps me work on my writing skills and Sun.Star benefits (I hope) from the improvement in my skills. I also get to experiment with scripts, programs and even firmware and get feedback from readers. What I learn from my experiments I write about in the special section that I edit and the weekly column that I write.

This relative lack of problems with the newsroom I credit to the technical nature of this blog. I do not discuss controversial issues and for the most part stay away from political discussions. I have strong political views but I generally keep these to myself, there’s nothing like a political discussion to raise people’s blood and blog pressure (flame comments).

Columnists and opinion writers don’t face as much problems on blogging as reporters. Weblogs are the perfect medium for opinion writers, it opens them to feedback without having to delve into the technical aspect of managing web interaction.

I can see potential problems, however, with reporters taking political stands in their blogs. I say problems not because I disagree with that but because they might get into trouble with news sources or their newsrooms.

How can you, for example, interview Rep. Antonio Yapha with a straight face if you call him “yabag” (crazy) in your blog because of his proposal to turn his district into a separate province from Cebu.

But reporters taking political stands in their blogs, as I said in a discussion with my editor, isn’t bad. In fact, it will help in the sense that you are expressing your biases and people would know where you’re coming from in reporting on a certain issue.

Here’s the full text of the BBC guideline taken from their editorial guidelines site:

BBC GUIDELINES ON EMPLOYEES WEBLOGS AND WEBSITES

These Guidelines apply to personal blogs and all other personal webcontent (e.g. personal podcasts). Official BBC content which uses blogging formats must be signed off by the relevant divisional interactive head.

Principles

Blogging is a form of public conversation on the internet, in which BBC people may wish to take part.

When a blogger clearly identifies themselves as a BBC person and/or discusses their work, the BBC expects them to behave well when blogging, and in ways that are consistent with the BBC’s Editorial Values and policies.

Many bloggers, particularly in technical areas, use their personal blogs to discuss their BBC work in ways that benefit the BBC, and add to the “industry conversation”. These guidelines are not intended to restrict this, as long as confidential information is not revealed.

Blogs or websites which do not identify the blogger as a BBC employee, do not discuss the BBC and are purely about personal matters would normally fall outside these guidelines.

These guidelines complement the BBC’s Conflict of Interest guidelines.

Editorial Policy can give advice on these Guidelines.

Guidelines For Bloggers

If you already have a personal blog or website which indicates in any way that you work at the BBC you should tell your manager.

If you want to start blogging, and your blog/website will say that you work for the BBC you should tell your manager.

If your blog makes it clear that you work for the BBC, it should include a simple and visible disclaimer such as “these are my personal views and not those of the BBC”.

Unless there are specific concerns about the nature of your job, you are free to talk about BBC programmes and content on your blog. Consult your manager if in any doubt.

Don’t reveal confidential information. This might include aspects of BBC policy or details of internal BBC discussions. Again, consult your manager if you are unclear about what might be confidential.

You should not use your blogs to attack or abuse colleagues. You should respect the privacy and the feelings of others. Remember that if you break the law on your blog (for example by posting something defamatory), you will be personally responsible.

If you think something on your blog or website gives rise to concerns about a conflict of interest and in particular concerns about impartiality or confidentiality this must be discussed with your manager.

If someone offers to pay you for blogging this could constitute a conflict of interest and you must consult your manager.

If someone from the media or press contacts you about posts on your blog that relate to the BBC you should talk to your manager before responding. The relevant BBC press office must be consulted.

You are allowed to update your personal blog from a BBC computer at work, under the BBC’s Acceptable Use Policy.

Guidelines For Managers

Under these guidelines managers in each area will decide what is appropriate. They should not adopt an unnecessarily restrictive approach. Managers should ensure that any special instructions on blogging are reasonable and explained clearly to staff.

Managers should bear in mind concerns about impartiality, confidentiality, conflicts of interest or commercial sensitivity. In some cases individuals may be dealing with matters which are so sensitive that rules may have to be set on what they can and cannot talk about on their personal blog.

Those involved in editorial or production areas must take particular care to ensure that they do not undermine the integrity or impartiality of the BBC or its output on their blogs. For example those involved in factual areas should not advocate a particular position on high profile controversial subjects relevant to their areas.

Managers can consult the BBC’s Conflicts of Interest Guidelines and the BBC’s Acceptable Use Policy For Internet and Email.

News and Current Affairs

Impartiality is a particular concern for those working in news and current affairs. Nothing should appear on their personal blogs which undermines the integrity or impartiality of the BBC. For example, news and current affairs people should not:

* advocate support for a particular political party
* express views for or against any policy which is a matter of current party political debate
* advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate

If news and current affairs people are in doubt they should refer immediately to their line manager.

If news and current affairs people are asked to blog for commercial gain this could constitute a conflict of interest. Managers should consult the Off Air Activities Guidance Note for News and Current Affairs Presenters and Editorial Staff in BBC News, BBC Nations and Regions and BBC Global News.

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