BBC issues guidelines to staff bloggers

The BBC has unveiled guidelines for staff who run blogs and other personal websites after using an internal wiki — a web page that any user can edit — to consult staff on the policy.

The new policy applies to blogs maintained in a personal capacity by BBC employees if they reveal their affiliation to the corporation.

'Official' BBC blogs, such as the one maintained by political correspondent Nick Robinson, are covered by the corporation's regular editorial guidelines.

The rules require BBC bloggers to inform their managers about their blogs, and to post a disclaimer, indicating that their views do not reflect those of the BBC. They ban abuse of other BBC employees.

The guidelines stress that BBC employees working in editorial or production roles should take care not to "undermine the integrity or impartiality of the BBC or its output".

News and current affairs staff in particular are barred from advocating a political party, expressing views or advocating a position on matters of public debate.

BBC senior advisor on editorial policy, Nick Reynolds, said: "The idea to have these guidelines on personal blogs actually came from people inside the BBC who had blogs. Bloggers came said to me ‘what can I say about my work for the BBC on my personal blog?'"

Reynolds said that one of the events that may have lead to BBC-based bloggers' interest in having formal guidelines was the sacking of blogger Joe Gordon by the booksellers Waterstones in January 2005. Gordon had occasionally mentioned his employer on a blog he maintained in his free time.

The BBC blog policy was approved through regular BBC channels following a lengthy consultation of staff using a wiki on the BBC's intranet, Gateway.

Reynolds posted drafts of the guidelines on the wiki and invited BBC staff to change or comment on them. Over the course of several months, BBC employees made about 50 posts on the wiki.

Reynolds said he was surprised by the way the wiki was used: "People didn't actually directly re-write the document. They used it more as a confidential message board. A couple of people corrected spelling, but there wasn't any wholesale crossings-out and putting new things in."

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