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The not quite 10 commandments of social media

17 June 2020

By Ian Silvera, Account Director

Woe unto you, naughty Sky News presenters, producers and correspondents, for you have committed heinous social media sins, the outlet’s boss John Ryley almost declared as he unveiled a novemalogue of rules for Twitter usage yesterday. 

The Head of Sky News, building on Fryer ‘David’ Cameron’s famous warning that “too many tweets make a twit [editor’s note: this is a family newsletter]”, was more mundane than Moses when he revealed that all staff would have to complete a “training e-module” on the OfCom-regulated broadcaster’s Editorial Guidelines. 

But rule number four really laid down the law for those working for the Osterley-based organisation: “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,” Ryley wrote in his company-wide email. 

His not quite 10 commandments for social media should be praised for their brevity, simpleness and unambiguous demands. 

They come at a time of renewed focus on what broadcasters say on and off the air, with the licence-fee-funded BBC having to admit it breached its own impartiality guidelines when Newsnight host Emily Matlis, with an introductory monologue, criticized the Prime Minister over his top aide Dominic Cummings. 

Such an editorialising move was reminiscent of a trend which has dominated US TV news for more than a decade, with hosts trying to drum-up daily faux-outrage on all sides of the political spectrum in a bid to plump-up their ratings. It’s a slippery slope, which eventually leads to ‘info-entertainment’ characters like Glenn Beck, who became famous for his chalkboard rants during his tenure at Fox News.  

The BBC, meanwhile, has commissioned one of the corporation’s former executives, Richard Sambrook, to conduct a six-month-long review into how the organisation’s stars and journalists can maintain their impartiality on social media. Let’s hope he comes down from Mount W1A soon.