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BBC Appoints Former ITN Chief John Hardie to Conduct Social Media Guidance Review After Gary Lineker

L-R: Gary Lineker, John Hardie (Courtesy of Getty Images)

The BBC has appointed former CEO and editor-in-chief of ITN and executive VP at Walt Disney, John Hardie, to review how its social media guidance applies to freelancers.

The review, which was announced by BBC director general Tim Davie earlier this month, will start immediately and will be completed by the summer and any changes to the BBC’s social media guidance will then be published.

In early March, Lineker, commenting on the U.K. government’s controversial Illegal Migration Bill, tweeted, describing it as an “immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.” Lineker, a former star soccer player and presenter on the “Match of the Day” soccer show, was suspended by the BBC and then reinstated, raising questions about presenters’ acceptable use of social media.

Hardie has also served as the chair of the Royal Television Society. He has not worked for the BBC.

Under the review’s terms of reference, he will look at the BBC’s guidance covering “individual use of social media,” first published in October 2020, in relation to those working as on-air freelancers outside of news, current affairs and factual journalism.

The review will consider how the BBC applies its guidance, considering the BBC’s charter commitments to both impartiality and freedom of expression. Future guidance must be “easy to understand, practical and deliverable,” the BBC said.

Hardie will specifically look at: Which freelancers are covered by the guidance?; What impartiality requirements should apply to freelancers, if any? If so, how should they be defined?; and are all freelancers covered by the same requirements?

Davie said: “The BBC has important commitments to both impartiality and to freedom of expression. We also have a commitment to those working with us, and for us, to be clear in what we expect from them. The social media guidance is crucial to achieving this, particularly in a fast-paced, ever- changing world of digital media. This review will ensure this guidance is clear, proportionate and appropriate – now and in the future.”

Hardie added: “I am very pleased to have been asked to conduct this review. I approach the task with no preconceptions and an open mind. I look forward to hearing from a wide range of voices, from both inside and outside the BBC, as the work progresses.”

Variety's Naman Ramachandran contributed to this post.

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