Friday 1 July 2022

Looking back

WARNING: This is one of those posts that got more confusing the more I wrote. And you may feel the same by the end of it. Apologies in advance...

The Defund The BBC campaign group tweeted the following this afternoon:
Surprise, surprise, the BBC’s ‘impartiality guru’ has locked his Twitter account after being found to be completely biased against both Boris and Brexit calling Brexit result ‘utterly stupid’. It’s no wonder the BBC is so shamelessly partisan!
They are a bit out-of-date over two years. 

They linked to a 15 June 2020 Guido Fawkes article BBC IMPARTIALITY ADVISER’S ULTRA PARTISAN ANTI-BORIS, ANTI-BREXIT TWEETS where Guido did a spot of 'Twitter archaeology' on Richard Sambrook, the former BBC executive turned Cardiff University media professor turned BBC official reviewer tasked with assessing whether the BBC's social media accounts are going against the BBC's impartiality policy

Guido found a string of partisan tweets, all in the usual direction, from the man appointed to assess BBC impartiality on Twitter and other social media.

An update that day on Guido Fawkes said:
Following our story this morning about his clearly partisan public tweeting, [Richard Sambrook] has now locked his Twitter account making his tweets private.
...which was an absolute joke and should have led to the BBC dropping him instantly.

Prof. Sambrook was appointed to review the BBC's social media on 29 May 2020. Guido was on it just over two weeks later on 15 June 2020.

I remember all this because - not to blow our own trumpets, while actually blowing them like Dizzy Gillespie  - looking back, we were actually well ahead of Guido there. On the 29 May 2020 itself I posted a piece where I wrote:
Salford, we have a problem.  The Times reports today that the BBC is so concerned about their journalists discrediting them by expressing their views on Twitter that they've now hired their former head of news, Richard Sambrook, to look into the problem. Mr Sambrook was, you may recall, the co-author of a much-cited, BBC-backed Cardiff University report which 'found' that the BBC didn't just not have a pro-EU bias but 'actually' has a pronounced anti-EU bias. His own Twitter feed reveals him to be anti-Brexit. Wonder what he'll find and recommend?

And Sue, that very same day, wrote

Hiring Richard Sambrook to review how the BBC “maintains impartiality on social media, amid concerns that journalists are discrediting the corporation by revealing their opinions” is a bit like getting the Supreme Court of Injustice to adjudicate on the lawfulness of something Lady Hale isn’t keen on.

We'd even done a piece in November 2019 on one of Richard Sambrook's impartiality-free 'chats' on Twitter, when he was a mere Cardiff University professor overseeing monitoring of BBC impartiality, which ended with the line:  

The people traditionally presented by the BBC as those worthy of holding them to account aren't exactly reassuring me here about their own impartiality.

It's still worth returning to all of this though because the 15 June 2020 Guido Fawkes piece ended with this:

There will now be no confidence in his review, as a former journalist he should know that cover-ups always backfire and transparency would have been better. He will surely have to step aside from the impartiality review…

What happened next? Well, as per various BBC reports from later that year that mentioned his review in passing, he didn't step aside, and he and the BBC seem to have carried on regardless. New guidance on social media use by BBC staff was issued on 29 October 2020, though that apparently came before the Sambrook review itself was finished. 

And that's where things get cloudy. Was the Sambrook review ever published? If I ever knew, I've forgotten. 

[That's what comes of closing the book and losing your page].

If anyone knows please let me know below. 

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