Twitter: BBC objects to the label “government-funded media”

The BBC has taken issue with a new label on its main Twitter account that refers to it as “government funded media.”

The corporation has contacted the social media giant to resolve the “issue as soon as possible” on the @BBC account.

“The BBC is and has always been independent.” The British public funds us through the licence fee,” it stated.

Elon Musk suggested that more information be added to the account’s label.

When BBC News pointed out to Mr Musk that the corporation is supported by license fees, he responded in an email, asking, “Is the Twitter label accurate?”

He also seemed to imply that he was thinking about providing a label that would link to “exact funding sources.”

It is unclear whether this would also apply to other media outlets.

Mr Musk wrote in a separate email, seeking to clarify his earlier remarks, “We are aiming for maximum transparency and accuracy.” Linking to ownership and funding source makes sense. I believe that media organizations should be self-aware and not falsely claim that they are completely free of bias.

“Every organization has bias, some obviously more than others.” I should mention that I follow BBC news on Twitter because I believe it to be one of the least biased.”

The government sets the level of the £159 ($197) annual licence fee, which is required by law to watch live TV broadcasts or live streaming in the UK, but is paid for by individual UK households.

While the @BBC account, which has 2.2 million followers, has been given the label, much larger accounts associated with the BBC’s news and sport output are not.

The account primarily shares information about BBC-produced TV shows, radio shows, podcasts, and other non-news content.

The label directs users to a page on Twitter’s help website where they can learn more about “state-affiliated media accounts,” which are defined as “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.”

The BBC, as the UK’s national broadcaster, operates under a Royal Charter agreed upon with the government.

According to the BBC Charter, the corporation “must be independent,” especially in “editorial and creative decisions, the times and manner in which its output and services are supplied, and in the management of its affairs.”

Twitter’s new labeling of the BBC account comes after it did the same for NPR’s handle in the United States.

Initially, the social media company referred to NPR as “state-affiliated media,” a label that has been applied to outlets such as Russia’s RT and China’s Xinhua News.

The label was later changed to the same “government funded media” label that now appears on the @BBC account. NPR had stated that it would no longer tweet from the account unless it was changed.

The licence fee raised £3.8 billion ($4.7 billion) for the BBC in 2022, accounting for roughly 71% of the BBC’s total income of £5.3 billion, with the remainder coming from commercial and other activities such as grants, royalties, and rental income.

The BBC also receives more than £90 million in government funding each year to support the BBC World Service, which primarily serves non-UK audiences.

The national broadcaster’s output is also supported by commercial subsidiaries such as BBC Studios, as well as advertising on services available to audiences outside the United Kingdom.

Each household in the United Kingdom is required by law to pay the licence fee (with some exceptions) if they:

watch or record programs as they air on any TV channel watch or stream programs live on any online TV service, such as All 4, YouTube, or Amazon Prime Video download or watch any BBC programs on BBC iPlayer
Private companies contracted by the corporation, rather than the UK government, collect the licence fee and enforce nonpayment.

TV license evasion is not a punishable offense. However, failure to pay a fine after a criminal conviction may result in imprisonment – “a last resort” after other methods of enforcement have failed.

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