Even by Twitter’s rarefied standards, the recent social (and other news) media fallout – from a Gary Lineker tweet – was extensive. Match of the Day, ultimately, proceeding without any presenter/pundits, or commentators, for the first time in living memory.
The story, of course, concerned politics (asylum), football and twitter, so it is little surprise it received so much traction… Now the dust has settled, though, the most startling aspect of the story is arguably the far more sedate question of effective (policy) drafting!
What some have described as the BBC’s climb-down, has involved an effective admission that their social media policy guidance (including how this relates to freelancers) is not fit for purpose!
Freedom of speech is, of course, rarely an absolute right and therefore employers can often (to some extent anyway) legitimately seek to constrain it. The BBC, given its purposes and unique funding situation, would seem better placed than most employers to have effective (and justifiable) social media policies in place. This, to include where political comment (from its most high-profile presenters), is concerned, and after taking account of their long-standing commitment to “impartiality”. All these factors, make their recent admission (and apparent uncertainty), even more surprising.
Perhaps even more startling, is the fact the BBC did not appear to appreciate (due to it likely complicating the question of “status”), that freelancers ought not to be subject to the same policy guidance, as other workers. This particular area now forming a critical component of the BBC’s recently announced guidance review process.
While this story contained many strands, and arguably could have been handled differently, there is little doubt around the “principle” the BBC saw at play. However, the fact they appear not to have had effective guidance documentation (or appropriate freelance contract clauses), to effectively support such principle, may be their most spectacular own goal!
If you have any questions, or need any advice around employment law/HR issues (to include; “status” questions, social media policies (together with any application, out-with the workplace) and/or freelance contract drafts), please contact Euan Smith.