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Twitter to amend “government-funded” label on BBC account

Broadcasting House, the headquarters of the BBC, as it appeared in 2014.
Broadcasting House, the headquarters of the BBC, as it appeared in 2014. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Twitter owner Elon Musk says the platform will amend a controversial label applied to the main profile of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) after criticism that the tag was inaccurate.

Earlier in the week, officials at the BBC said the “government-funded media” label affixed to their account misconstrued how the broadcaster generates revenue.

The BBC is funded through a government-mandated license imposed on British households that watch live television, either through traditional means or online. The government collects the funds from the license and disburses it to the BBC. Around 75 percent of the BBC’s revenue comes from the license, while the remainder comes from commercial arrangements made by the BBC for foreign distribution of its content.

“The BBC is, and always has been, independent,” a spokesperson for the organization said on Monday. “We are funded by the British public through the license fee.”

Officials said the “government-funded media” label shouldn’t apply because the BBC doesn’t receive any direct funding from the government itself. Only British households that watch live TV are required to pay for a TV license; in some cases, certain residents are exempt from the license requirements based on various factors, including age.

On Tuesday, Musk agreed that the label needed to be fixed, affirming his “utmost respect” for the organization and saying the tag would be changed to read “publicly-funded,” which more accurately represents how the BBC generates revenue.

It is the second time Musk and Twitter have walked back a label applied to a broadcaster in less than a month. Last week, American public media organization NPR took issue with a “state-affiliated” tag that appeared on their public account, with officials saying it wrongly implied that its editorial output was somehow controlled by the government.

Musk’s compromise with NPR was to amend the label to claim NPR was “government-funded media,” which is still inaccurate. NPR receives less than 1 percent of its funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the federal government’s not-for-profit program that helps support public broadcasting initiatives. The majority of NPR’s funding comes from corporate sponsorships, private grants, endowments and from public radio stations purchasing the broadcast rights to NPR programming.

As of late Tuesday evening, the “government-funded media” label was still affixed to the public profiles of both NPR and the BBC.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).