Celebrity politics are always a difficult issue to navigate. However, the BBC does not agree. They seem to have found a very simple way to deal with the issue: don’t allow anyone to get involved with it. BBC’s new Director-General Tim Davie plans to implement severe social media rules regarding the sharing of political views by BBC stars and staff.
As reported by Jake Kanter over at Deadline, “the BBC will fire staff or strip them of their social accounts depending on the severity of the transgression.” The emphasis on celebrity politics came when Davie reaffirmed the broadcaster’s decision to put forth an air of impartiality when it comes to news and current events. “If someone is a face of the BBC, I think entering into party politics seems to me not the right place to be,” Davie stated.
This hardline stance on celebrity politics is likely being influenced by the last few years in which the BBC has been accused of bias on issues such as Brexit. Prominent on-screen news personas have not been shy about their feelings on such matters, and it sounds like Davie intends to clamp down on any such expressions on social media.
This certainly presents a few dilemmas. Celebrity politics are often the source of news themselves – just look at the response to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson endorsing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for the United States presidential election – but it sounds like the BBC wants to stifle any attempts at political expression in public forums by their talent. As an employer, they are allowed to terminate employees for behavior they prohibit in their hiring contracts/code of conduct. But, how discriminatory could such a policy become?
This becomes especially troublesome when you consider that news staff are not the only ones who will be affected by this mandate. Davie’s stance on celebrity politics has the potential to branch outward to all productions that fall under the BBC banner. “The bar will be higher for news and current affairs, but there will also be a bar for those people working as BBC talent across the organization, across genres,” Davies clarified. Does this mean that there will be a harder stance taken with actors that share their political feelings on social media?
All of this sounds like a very tricky maze to navigate. Celebrity politics are always going to be present and attempting to silence them sounds like it could be primed to backfire. Again, an employer is absolutely within their right to enforce a code of conduct that employees have to be made aware of. Will BBC employees find the new restrictions too draconian and leave? Freedom of expression has become a valuable part of many peoples’ lives in the era of social media. The idea that BBC employees might be punished for that expression could turn away a number of potential or current employees.
Regardless, celebrity politics aren’t going anywhere. Yes, the BBC will try this new edict and we will see how well it goes for them. If there ends up being a prominent enough figure in their ranks that disagrees with the new rules, you can bet they will take to social media to share their concerns with the world.