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    BBC objects to Twitter’s “government funded media” label

    Twitter recently attached a “Government Funded Media” label to the main BBC account, igniting a debate within the United Kingdom over the label’s accuracy, also prompting a strong response from the public broadcaster. The label appeared on the BBC’s primary Twitter profile, which primarily shares content related to its entertainment programs. As of writing this, Twitter has not provided a public explanation for its decision and has not applied the label to any of the BBC’s news accounts, several of which have a larger following.

    The social media platform, led by Elon Musk, has also applied the label to U.S.-based publicly funded media organizations, including NPR and PBS. On Saturday, Twitter changed the label on NPR’s account from “state-affiliated” to “Government Funded,” differentiating it from the labels used for Russia’s Sputnik and RT and the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily.

    In a statement on Monday, the BBC criticized the new label and said it was seeking clarification from Twitter to “resolve the issue.” The statement read, “The BBC is, and always has been, independent. We are funded by the British public through the license fee.” Unlike NPR, which has not posted any new messages from its main account since Wednesday, the BBC has continued to tweet from the newly flagged account.

    Late Sunday, Musk appeared to distance himself from the new label, suggesting that the label could be modified to better reflect the situation. He tweeted, “We need to add more granularity to editorial influence, as it varies greatly. I don’t actually think the BBC is as biased as some other government-funded media,” and added, “Minor government influence in their case would be more accurate.”

    Twitter’s response to a request for clarification early Monday was a poop emoji, its automated reply to all media inquiries.

    The new label directs users to a preexisting warning page that does not provide information about the “Government Funded” label, which appears to be a newly coined language. The page states that the “state-affiliated media” warning is applied to “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.”

    Roger Mosey, the BBC’s former editorial director, commented on the issue in an interview on Monday. He said, “The principle is not a terrible one — that you identify broadcasters or media organizations that are state funded. However, it has clearly gone wrong when it starts labeling the BBC or NPR as state- or government-backed in a way that implies they are organs of the state, which neither of them are.”

    Reportedly, in response to the BBC’s objection, Musk hinted at potentially providing a label that would link to “exact funding sources.” He also stressed the importance of transparency and accuracy, suggesting that media organizations should not claim a complete absence of bias. “All organizations have bias, some obviously much more than others. I should note that I follow BBC News on Twitter because I think it is among the least biased,” he added.

     

    Author

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    Anubha Pandey

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