John Ryley, the Head of Sky News, has emailed everyone in the newsroom laying down the law on tweeting:
1. Tweeting should be confined to genuine news-gathering and promoting or reporting news stories, though first and foremost this should be happening on Sky News’ owned & operated platforms.
2. Anyone not involved in stories related to UK politics should not be Tweeting about it.
3. Analysis and interpretation are fine if that is part of your role at Sky News. Commentary on political/economic/industrial issues — in which a view or opinion is detectable – is not.
4. For the avoidance of any doubt arguing, swearing and giving a political opinion are all completely unacceptable. Reasonably correcting an erroneous statement or factual error about oneself is allowed.
5. Retweeting for the purposes of reportage is fine – but be very conscious that retweets are sometimes scrutinised for signs of bias or seen as an endorsement of the original Tweet.
6. Liking social media posts that are at odds with Sky News’ obligations and values will be considered a breach of our Editorial Guidelines
7. Avoid Tweeting about disputes on editorial policy or decisions at other news organisations.
8. All staff will need to complete a training e-module on the Editorial Guidelines including social media .
9. If you’re in any doubt about what and what not is OK to post you should speak to your line manager.
Please adhere to these rules – this is a requirement not a choice.
Yesterday Adam Boulton and mild-mannered Iain Dale kicked off, Kay Burley doesn’t ever hold back on telling people where to go on Twitter and has featured often and amusingly in “Twitter Bitch Fight of the Week“. Things will be more bland, though this was inevitable, regulated broadcasters’ impartiality was being stretched on Twitter.
Sky News has apologised after a technical cock-up last night resulted in the implication that Prince Andrew is involved in the ongoing Madeleine McCann case. Based on his face of blind terror, presenter Dermot Murnaghan clearly spotted the error as stock footage of the prince played over a segment on the new suspect in the missing girl’s case. Guido hopes Murnaghan doesn’t sweat it…
As recently as the end of March official ratings agency BARB’s figures show that All Out Politics was getting over quarter of a million viewers. This Wednesday the show got less than 60,000 viewers… this explains much.
This morning Momentum activist Ellie Sharp is appearing on a rolling package on Sky News opposing the return of schools. At 6 a.m., as usual the militant left-wing campaigner was simply described as a “primary school teacher”. Then, to their credit, Sky News added a more accurate description. By 8 a.m. Sharp was a “union activist”…
By 11 a.m., the words “momentum activist” had been added…
Sky News has done the right thing, informing their viewers of the guest talking head’s affiliations, allowing the public to better judge the guest’s claims in light of that knowledge. Time for other broadcasters to follow suit…
UPDATE: Sky’s Adam Boulton responds and he is not happy about transparency:
IMHO opinion we should never have done this. It is a mistake. We should treat you and your fellow bullies with the contempt you merit. https://t.co/pfBl9Q4Wir— Adam Boulton (@adamboultonSKY) May 22, 2020
Day after day on our screens broadcasters have an insatiable appetite for “talking heads”, articulate people who can make interesting television by making a passionate case. Producers are on the look out for people with knowledge of the hot issue of the day who they can use to make interesting viewing. This is why old Owen Jones was never off our screens for years, why you see so much of our Tom Harwood and literal communists like Ash Sarkar on the news shows. They provide opinionated ping-pong television refereed by presenters, sometimes it is a freak show, sometimes we learn something. Harmless so long as the panels are balanced and the viewers told where the talking heads are coming from when they are introduced, viewers can make up their own minds.
During the pandemic, though the trend has been apparent for a long time, talking heads are introduced suggesting viewers should be more inclined to give their opinions weight by virtue of their professional standing. Yet time after time these experts turn out to be undisclosed partisan political campaigners on the issue they are talking about. If this was made transparent the viewers would be much better placed to judge and contextualise the sometimes outlandish claims made.
The BBC have guidelines on the issue:
We should not automatically assume that contributors from other organisations (such as academics, journalists, researchers and representatives of charities and think-tanks) are unbiased. Appropriate information about their affiliations, funding and particular viewpoints should be made available to the audience, when relevant to the context.
On financial news channels (like CNBC, Bloomberg and Reuters) when fund managers are interviewed about their views on the stock market the presenter will often ask them “do you own the stock?”. Sometimes there will be a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen saying the fund manager has a position in the company being discussed. This came about after a number of scandals where interviewees had talked up stocks they were long or disparaged stocks they short. There should be a similar protocol for talking heads who are political campaigners.
Either when they are introduced or on screen at the bottom, it would be helpful if “Tracey Teacher is a Tory activist” or “Professor Boffin is a Communist Party central committee member” was indicated. No one is saying they should not be allowed to give their views, we’re just asking that their affiliations should be clearly labelled. Otherwise we end up with “news investigations” which are little more than party political broadcasts…
Teacher Ellie Sharp appeared on Sky News over the weekend to engage in some good old Tory bashing. She repeatedly said the phrase “speaking as a teacher” and “speaking as an educator” before claiming “I don’t believe Boris Johnson has our best interests at heart.” Perhaps she would have been less misleading if she had said “Speaking as a Momentum activist…”
A quick search shows Sharp’s clear far left activism:
Not that Sky News let the viewers know any of that context…