BBC Rejects Being Labelled as “Government-Funded Media” on Twitter


Twitter has recently come under fire for its new label of the BBC’s main Twitter account as “government funded media”. The BBC has contacted the social media giant to resolve the issue, stating that they are funded by the British public through the licence fee. Elon Musk, CEO of Twitter, responded to the BBC’s clarification that they were licence fee-funded, asking if the label was accurate. He also suggested he was considering providing a label that would link to “exact funding sources”.

The BBC is funded by the annual licence fee of £159 ($197) which is set by the government, but paid for by individual UK households. The @BBC account, which has 2.2 million followers, has been given the label, but larger accounts associated with the BBC’s news and sport output are not currently being described in the same way. The label links through to a page on Twitter’s help website which states that “state-affiliated media accounts” are outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content.

The BBC operates through a Royal Charter agreed with the government, which states that the corporation must be independent. The licence fee raised £3.8bn ($4.7bn) in 2022 for the BBC, accounting for about 71% of the BBC’s total income. The rest of their income comes from commercial and other activities like grants, royalties and rental income. The BBC also receives more than £90m per year from the government to support the BBC World Service.

TV licence evasion is not an imprisonable offence, however non-payment of a fine following a criminal conviction could lead to a risk of imprisonment. The collection of the licence fee and enforcement of non-payment is carried out by private companies contracted by the corporation, not the UK government.

The BBC’s independence is essential to its credibility, and it is important that this is reflected in its labelling on social media platforms. It is unclear whether Twitter will provide labels for other media outlets too, but it is clear that transparency and accuracy are important to them. Elon Musk has stated that he believes the BBC is one of the “least biased” outlets and follows them on Twitter for this reason. It is hoped that Twitter will amend their label of the BBC’s account soon in order to reflect their true independence and funding sources.