HuffPost Takeover of BBC 5 Live Breaches BBC’s Own Rules

Late last night the BBC Press Office told us: “We always have complete and sole responsibility for our editorial output. Our Twenties Takeover is about hearing from younger voices. We’ve worked with HuffPost UK on this project, and we will be hearing a full range of viewpoints throughout the day. We are open to working with other platforms in the future.”

The BBC made the following points:

  • “The Takeover title refers to twentysomethings not HuffPost UK. They are doing their own coverage on the day – separate to 5 Live. They have no say over our coverage.”

Pictured above are Lucy Pasha-Robinson and Basia Cummings tweeted out from the 5 Live studio. They are respectively the HuffPost deputy blogs editor and the HuffPost news editor, broadcasting from the 5 Live studio. Basia, according to what Guido heard on 5 Live was in the BBC’s newsroom and was credited as producing “The Takeover”. George Bowden, a HuffPost reporter seems to think he’s also got a say in the BBC’s coverage:

  • “Working with an outside organisation allows us to have more impact. We wanted to work with a platform that has a young demographic in line with the BBC’s aim to reach younger audiences.”

The BBC has the biggest share of every demographic in Britain, including young people by virtue of BBC Radio 1.

  • “The involvement of HuffPost UK on air will be very limited. None of their reporters are co-presenting our programmes.”

In the 2 hours since 06:45 when we started monitoring HuffPost has been namechecked 14 times. Advertising you literally can’t buy on the BBC.

  • “There will be a range of twentysomething contributors on air – some from the BBC and some from other organisations including, we hope, Guido Fawkes.”

We tried for days to get our own twentysomething journalists involved and the BBC refused our offer of providing some balance to the left-wing HuffPost website.

  • “There are clear BBC guidelines around prominence and we will work within those. This project has been approved from an editorial perspective.”

BBC guidelines state that they must “maintain a clear distinction between advertising and editorial content. There must be no subliminal or surreptitious advertising on any BBC commercial service or in any programme made by a BBC commercial service.” The 14 name checks advertising HuffPost – so far – including on-air presenters directing listeners to the HuffPost website, are clearly in breach of the guidelines. Imagine if the BBC had made a deal with The Sun Online – a website with a young demographic –  to promote them all day. There would be an outcry…

DCMS Committee Member and Former Digital Minister Slam BBC Over Left Wing Takeover

The BBC has this afternoon come under fire by influential MPs, condemning the organisation for giving a one sided advertising boost to a U.S. owned left-wing news website for an entire day.

Former Digital Minister Ed Vaizy has thrown the BBC’s judgement into question:

“It seems very odd for the BBC to be partnering with any news organisation at all, given their role in providing impartial news. But if they are, in the interests of getting younger voices, then there need to be a range of views, not just the exclusive view of one editorial standpoint.

When the Today Programme has guest editors, they at least ensure they come from both left and right. 5 Live should do the same if they are going down this road.”

Julian Knight, a member of the powerful Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee, which oversees the BBC, has told Guido that the BBC has questions to answer…

“This is yet another instance in a long line of left-wing and left leaning people brought in to run key editorial content at the BBC. Huffington Post has a very particular leaning, and the BBC has questions to answer over its supposed impartiality.

It feels at the moment that the BBC is alienating a large chunk of the audience, something that will damage it in the long run.”

With the left-wing Huffington Post’s “twenties takeover” the BBC is ceding editorial control to a rival media organisation. Don’t they have enough of their own young left-wing journalists?

UPDATE: Former Conservative Vice Chair for Youth Ben Bradley weighs in…

“I’m all for a focus on young people, and engaging young people with creating their news content. I’m sure that could be a very positive thing, but as an organisation that has its own vast team of journalists, including some in their 20s that I’ve met and worked with myself, I don’t really see why they need to outsource.

If they really need help why would they reach out to an organisation that anyone operating in the political sphere would recognise as having a left-leaning bias. They may as well have drafted in the Guardian or the Mirror. It’s only going to drive the theory that they’re not as balanced as they’re meant to be!”

Why is the BBC Giving a U.S. Media Corporation an All Day Advertising Boost?

Tomorrow BBC 5 Live will partner with the US-owned left-wing news site Huffington Post for an all day ‘Twenties Takeover’. Guest presenters will be joined by twentysomething producers and reporters to direct the day’s editorial planning, social media and phone-ins from 6 am to 1 am. Rozina Breen, head of news at BBC 5 Live, said: “The idea behind commissioning the Twenties Takeover was to put young people at the heart of BBC 5 Live’s journalism, from editorial leadership to commissioning and storytelling”. Sounds like an innovative idea to empower young journalists.

For some reason they are partnering with the left-wing Huffington Post for the project. Surely out of the thousands of journalists at the BBC some are in their twenties? Why bring in twentysomethings only from one outside left-wing website? We at Guido Fawkes have spent days attempting to help the BBC out and get involved, bringing a bit of left/right balance, to no avail. We asked the producers to be involved and have been firmly rebuffed...

Guido’s news editor wrote on Tuesday to the producer who originated the idea:

Dear Jason,

As the 27-year old News Editor at Guido Fawkes, I was very excited to see your #TwentiesTakeOver article in HuffPost this morning about young people taking over BBC Five Live for a day in collaboration with HuffPost this week. I think it’s a fantastic idea to help nurture young talent and get different perspectives heard.
Both myself and my colleague Tom Harwood are young journalists in our twenties, and we would be delighted to get involved in the project this Thursday. As a right-leaning site we would help to balance out the left-leaning HuffPost and provide a broader range of perspectives from people in their twenties.
Incidentally, Guido Fawkes is the only UK tabloid publication with a 9/9 NewsGuard rating. For comparison, HuffPost only scored 8/9, failing on the criteria: “handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly.”
Please do let me know how we can help take this project forward.
Best wishes
Hugh Bennett

After an initial phone call with the BBC to get a response, it seemed as if they were willing to work with Guido’s twentysomethings. Another call to firm up details found Guido rebuffed, told that the BBC and Huffington Post were running this project and there was no room for any other twentysomething voices editorially. Producers wouldn’t tell Guido how or why Huffington Post are exclusively involved, why a partnership was needed at all considering the thousands of 20-somethings hired by the BBC, and why no other publications were offered a similar deal…

Huffington Post is part of a multi-billion dollar US media and telecoms conglomerate. The value of an entire day of promotion on one of Britain’s national radio stations is hard to quantify. According to one advertising executive we spoke to it would be worth “hundreds of thousands”. Imagine if the BBC was partnering with The Sun or Mail Online, and giving them a entire day’s free advertising to 5 Live’s millions of listeners. There would be an outcry…

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