EXCLUSIVE: The BBC is preparing to set out new rules that will govern what its biggest stars can post on social media after a debacle over a Gary Lineker tweet earlier this year.
BBC insiders said the results of an independent review by former ITN CEO John Hardie could be published as early as Thursday. The BBC declined to comment on the timing of an announcement but did not deny that it was imminent.
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It is not clear if the BBC will publish Hardie’s findings in full alongside changes to social media guidance. The last time the BBC ordered a social media review in 2020, the broadcaster did not make public the conclusions of Richard Sambrook, a former BBC News executive.
Hardie was drafted in to clarify how the BBC’s social media rules should apply to freelance presenters as the broadcaster attempts to uphold strict standards on impartiality. BBC stars who are not employees include Match of the Day host Lineker and The Apprentice UK star Lord Sugar.
BBC insiders said the corporation could introduce new restrictions on what stars can comment on, potentially banning them from remarking on sensitive, topical, or contentious issues on platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter.
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The Times of London reported last month that Hardie has recommended a “three-tier” system. BBC News employees will be subject to the strictest social media rules, while stars on non-news programming will have looser guidelines. A third tier will be introduced for presenters on “crown jewel” shows closely associated with the BBC brand, who will reportedly face more stringent requirements.
Sources told Deadline that Hardie has consulted with stars like Lineker as part of his review and the BBC had attempted to establish whether freelance presenters will abide by the new rules.
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The BBC said in March that confusion caused by “grey areas” in existing social media rules had emerged out of the Lineker crisis. The former footballer was suspended after comparing UK immigration policy to rhetoric deployed in 1930s Germany. Lineker’s suspension was quickly reversed after his close colleagues effectively went on strike in protest over his treatment, forcing shows off air.
Deadline revealed in June that BBC Director General Tim Davie was in contact with a senior government official on the day he suspended Lineker, raising questions about whether he was pressured to punish the presenter for breaking impartiality rules. Documents showed that Davie was in dialogue with Polly Payne, Director General of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
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