BBC News to staff: Don’t tweet about our scandal

The new head of BBC News is trying to keep a lid on the scandal plaguing the corporation by urging staff not to tweet about it.

The BBC’s name was dragged through the muck after it aired a report which mistakenly suggested a senior Conservative was involved in child abuse. While the Newsnight program did not directly accuse Lord McAlpine of being the man in question, plenty of Twitter users wrongly did in a case that’s forced the BBC’s director general and several other executives to resign.

Fran Unsworth is temporarily taking charge of BBC News in place of Helen Boaden while an internal investigation takes place. After taking charge, she sent a memo to BBC employees asking them not to talk about the scandal.

“It would be helpful if some of our problems were not played out publically across social media and in the pages of the national press,” Unsworth wrote in an email obtained by the Telegraph. “We need a collective and collegiate sense of all pulling together to restore trust in the BBC’s news output.”

George Entwistle resigned as director general on Saturday in the fallout of the erroneous report, and since then several BBC employees shared their thoughts online.

The organization’s chief political correspondent, Norman Smith, reported on events over the weekend using Twitter:

He added that he was forced to miss Showtime’s Homeland and BBC reality show Strictly Come Dancing because of the “Beeb meltdown.”

Meanwhile, technology reporter Dave Lee jokingly asked a question to Peter Serafinowicz during one of the actor’s regular Twitter Q & A sessions:

Unsworth pointed out that her ascension to the role of BBC news chief is temporary. She suggested Boaden and deputy head Steve Mitchell would return following an investigation into why Newsnight declined to broadcast a report last year that would have exposed deceased TV host Jimmy Savile as an alleged paedophile before an ITV documentary did this October.

When the investigation started last month, Boaden and Mitchell stepped back from overseeing Savile and child abuse coverage due to a potential conflict of interest. Entwistle asked Adrian Van Klaveren, controller of Radio Five Live, to take charge on such stories, though it is unclear why the BBC aired the Nov. 2 report which implicated McAlpine without first asking him.

The BBC made it clear that Boaden and Mitchell had nothing to do with the broadcast of the McAlpine story—though that erroneous report could scarcely have come at a worse time for them. They were relieved of their duties Monday by the acting director-general, Tim Davie.

Unsworth said she was “enormously proud of the way you have gone about your jobs in your usual professional way, particularly over the past 48 hours. We now need to restore some equilibrium to the organisation.”

Photo by eggrole/Flickr

Kris Holt

Kris Holt

Based in Montreal, Kris Holt has been writing about technology and web culture since 2010. He writes for Engadget and Tech News World, and his byline has also appeared in Paste, Salon, International Business Times, Mashable, and elsewhere.