Is social media out of control? That was the first 'Big Question' on BBC One's Sunday morning debate this week. But why stop at social media, when the BBC could also have looked at its own 'out of control' editorial judgements? After all the BBC is subject to very little scrutiny - far less than most UK organisations.
Time and time again the BBC makes misguided or wrong-headed editorial decisions. Why, for example, did Newsround cancel a pre-arranged interview with a gay couple on 6th February 2013, giving them only an hour's notice of the cancellation? I believe the couple themselves were told that the story was "not fresh enough." But was it reasonable for Newsround to suddenly downplay the previous evening's historic House of Commons marriage equality vote, by leading instead on the Wednesday morning with "news" that all dogs would have to be microchipped in three years' time? The marriage vote was covered, but only as the second news item, and without the live interview.
According to an email, apparently written by Newsround editor Daniel Clarke, and sent via the BBC complaints department on 9th April, "the BBC cannot comment to any third parties on the circumstances surrounding interviews with potential contributors." I was also told that "the choice of stories, and how we report these stories, across all of the BBC’s news programmes is a matter for the individual programme editors."
If Newsround's broadcast output leaves something to be desired, their website judgement is, on occasion, just as bad.