‘Government-funded media’: BBC outraged at categorization by Elon Musk’s Twitter

Elon Musk’s Twitter now affixes the mention “funded by a government” to the official account of the BBC, the British public service media. The BBC has asked the social network to return “as quickly as possible” to this name.

The BBC, a “government-funded” media? This is the new name that appears on the official Twitter account of the media group, followed by more than 2.2 million Internet users. Since this change, which appeared on April 9, 2023, the BBC has formally denounced this designation and requested its withdrawal.

“The BBC is, and always will be independent. We are funded by UK citizens, through a fee,” the outlet explained. Every year, the British pay 159 pounds (181 euros) in fees to finance the BBC.

Elon Musk, the new boss of Twitter, has not stopped changing the rules of the social network since he took the reins. Three days earlier, he had decided that NPR, America’s public radio, should be accompanied by a state affiliation label, this time opting for the most extreme notation: state-affiliated media”. “In an email, Elon Musk appeared to be unsure of the difference between public service media and power-controlled media,” noted NPR, which also asked to appeal the decision.

Decisions change with Elon Musk’s humor

Prior to the change in ownership, Twitter used the term “government-funded” for propaganda outlets from certain dictatorial states, such as Russia or China. According to the social network’s official page, this marker concerns “media over which the state exercises control over their editorial line through financial resources, political pressure or production and distribution lines.” 

Finally, Musk changed the mention to “funded by a government”, which also does not correspond to the reality of public service and its independence.

Taken to task on Twitter, the billionaire responded to the subject of the BBC, first wondering ironically what “BBC meant”, to imply that the British Broadcasting Corporation would be biased.

He then continued: “We need to add more granularity in understanding editorial influence, as it varies widely. I don’t really think the BBC is as biased as some other government-funded media, but it’s silly of the BBC to claim there is no influence. We could rather speak of a minor influence.“  

The question of the editorial independence of a public service medium is at the heart of the journalistic pact between the public and journalists: it is a fundamental reflection of the balance of the fourth power in a democracy. Elon Musk, who only seems to have discovered these concepts today, ended up tweeting that he was “following the BBC” and thought they “had some really good info”.


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