Twitter has altered the BBC’s account description to read “publicly funded” after a previous note describing the broadcaster as “government-funded” sparked a complaint. It comes after the social media platform’s billionaire owner Elon Musk clashed with BBC North America technology reporter James Clayton during an interview on Tuesday over the broadcaster’s independence.
BBC released a statement criticising Twitter’s original bio description, arguing: “The BBC is, and always has been, independent.
“We are funded by the British public through the licence fee.”
During his interview with Mr Clayton in San Francisco, Mr Musk acknowledged the criticism from the BBC over the bio.
The Twitter boss said: “I know the BBC for example’s not thrilled about being labelled state-affiliated media.”
“If we use the same words that the BBC uses to describe itself, that presumably would be OK… That seems to pass a reasonable test.”
He added: “I actually do have a lot of respect for the BBC.”
The BBC expressed reservations about using the initial description on its flagship @BBC social media account.
The label links to a page that describes government-funded media as organisations in which the government has varying degrees of participation in editorial content.
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The BBC’s Royal Charter emphasises the organisation’s need for independence, particularly in editorial and creative decisions, production and service provision, and management of its affairs.
Twitter labeled NPR’s main account last week as “state-affiliated media, “a term also used to identify media outlets controlled or heavily influenced by authoritarian governments, such as Russia and China.
Twitter later changed the label to “government-funded media” and gave it to a few other organizations, such as the Public Broadcasting Service in the U.S. and the British Broadcasting Corporation in the UK.
NPR said in a statement on Wednesday that it “will no longer be active on Twitter because the platform is taking actions that undermine our credibility by falsely implying that we are not editorially independent.”
PBS said Wednesday it has also stopped tweeting from its main account because of its new label and has no plans to resume.
Media analysts say growing friction between Twitter and news organizations since Musk bought the platform is bad for Twitter, and bad for the public.
Paul Barrett, deputy director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights said: “It’s a shame to have proceeded in a direction where, intentionally or otherwise, Twitter is categorising Russian propaganda outlets in a similar way to very legitimate news sources that get a very modest amount of funding from the U.S. government.”
This is just the latest example of Musk tangling with mainstream news organisations. He abruptly suspended the accounts of individual journalists who wrote about Twitter late last year, claiming some were trying to reveal his location.
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