New BBC chief goes to war on ‘fake news’ of social media
‘Urgent questions to be answered’
THE new chairman of the BBC will declare war on ‘fake news’ in his first major speech today, calling for an overhaul of existing regulations to take on the social media giants.
Richard Sharp will say ‘urgent questions’ need to be addressed, as conspiracy theories and lies have been able to flourish in ‘closed media environments’.
He will also deliver a message about the BBC’s impartiality, saying it is ‘something we must prove again every day’.
The chairman took over from Sir David Clementi in February after working in banking and later as an adviser to Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
He will use his speech to the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention to join calls for tighter regulation of social media – saying the coronavirus pandemic has created the ‘perfect conditions’ for conspiracy theories to ‘boil over into the mainstream’.
These have ‘real-life consequences’, he will say, such as 5G masts being pulled down over conspiracies that the technology is linked to Covid and the vaccine drive being affected by disinformation.
Mr Sharp will call for the 2003 Communications Act to be replaced with new legislation more suited to the modern, fastchanging digital environment.
He is expected to tell the event: ‘There are urgent questions to be answered about the future media world we want to live in. We need to rethink the regulatory environment in this country – and replace a Communications Act that predates Facebook with one that can deliver on a clear vision.
‘Now is the time to put in place the rights, protections and education that will safeguard not just our media environment, but the stability of our societies and democracies long into the future.’
Mr Sharp, 65, will also stress impartiality is the ‘first priority’ of the BBC board and of director-general Tim Davie.
He will say: ‘Impartiality is a prerequisite for the existence of the BBC. And it must be seen as a journey, not a destination – something we must prove again every day.’
Getting this right, he will say, would give the BBC the chance to define itself as a ‘pre-eminent purveyor of facts in the disinformation age’.