BBC rebukes Radio 4 presenter for Tweets about Manchester MP

Simon Austin's picture
by Simon Austin

The BBC has rebuked a Radio 4 science presenter for his Twitter comments about a Manchester MP.

Dr Adam Rutherford, who presents the weekly BBC Inside Science programme, called on his followers to show their ‘righteous indignation’ about the appointment of Blackley and Broughton MP Graham Stringer to the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee.

He also urged his followers to write to their MPs about the appointment.

After an official complaint was made, Paul Smith, Head of Editorial Standards and Commissioning Policy for BBC Radio, said: “Any BBC presenter, freelance or otherwise, needs to consider how their outside comments might impact on the work they do for the BBC. On this occasion, in my view, Dr Rutherford’s comments on Twitter potentially compromised the BBC’s impartiality on this issue.

“Furthermore I acknowledge that as part of the twitter stream, Dr Rutherford invited the chair of the committee onto the programme, and this might have given the impression that Dr. Rutherford was speaking on behalf of the BBC.

“I have met Dr Rutherford and his Editor, and made these points clear to him. I have further advised him on his responsibilities when using social media. Although he is entitled to his own views, he must consider if any tweets (or other publications) might compromise his work as a BBC presenter.

“He has accepted my points and regrets this particular Twitter exchange. He accepts that he needs to consider carefully how his other published views might impact on his BBC work, and if necessary take advice from his editor at the BBC.

“The matter has been further escalated to the Head of the production department, who will also speak to Dr Rutherford, and monitor the situation from now on.”

Stringer, a Labour MP, said: "I appreciate the BBC's swift and appropriate response to my complaint. I have been a member of the Science and Technology Committee for 10 years. I have a degree in chemistry and have worked as a scientist in industry for a decade.

“I will continue to use my scientific training to look at all the issues that come before the Committee, including global warming."