Unbelievably, it appears to have taken two Sunday Express typists, David Jarvis and David Stephenson, to pull together an inept wannabe-expose into the BBC's use of Twitter:
IS THE BBC RUN BY A BUNCH OF TWITTERS?
Do you see? It's a joke, because 'Twitter' sounds a bit like 'twit'. I wonder why nobody has noticed that before, eh?
STAFF at the BBC are sending thousands of Twitter messages – even though they are not reaching anyone.
What does that actually mean?
The BBC Radio 2 site, which gathers messages, or “tweets”, from presenters such as Chris Evans, Jonathan Ross and Alan Carr, has no followers.
The Radio 2 site actually sends the odd Tweet from staff at Radio 2 about the programmes, but not by or from Chris Evans. Oh, and the "no followers"? 12,470 at time of writing.
That's a bit of a miscount. Or perhaps lie.
Or maybe David and David are confused. There is a Twitter account called BBCRadio2 (without the underscores), which is unofficial. And even that account - with no tweets at all - has got 155 followers. It isn't following anyone. Could that be where the confusion has set in?
But even the Sunday Express wouldn't confuse 'a fake account not following anyone' with 'a genuine account not being followed by anyone', would they?
It turns out they might be confused:
The BBC Radio 5 Live site, run by presenter Victoria Derbyshire, has just two.
As this screengrab shows, Victoria is following just two people. But, erm, she's being followed by over three and a half thousand.
It gets worse, though:
Other Twitter sites at the Corporation uncovered by the Sunday Express include BBC Tamil, BBC Vietnam and BBC Southend.
"Uncovered by the Sunday Express"? This isn't the thalidomide scandal, you've typed 'BBC' into the search box, didn't you?
And why should it be surprising that the World Service has Twitter accounts? There's massive audiences for the network around the world; I get the snarky implication - the two Davids are hoping their readers will somehow think that licence-fee staff are poking out messages about tonight's EastEnders to Vietnam for no apparent reason. They really do underestimate their readers over at the Express, don't they?
Some accounts are duplicated – BBC Arabic has 2,244 followers while Arabic BBC has just 122.
But they're not duplicated. One is from World Service Radio, one is from the commercial World Television service. It's like seeing there's a BBC Radio 1 and a BBC One, and assuming they're the same thing.
Even if you're too dull to know that there are two distinct Arabic services, you can surely spot the content of the tweets are different, David? Or you could ask David to help you?
The two Davids worry that perhaps their readers might not even know what a Twitter is. Clearly, neither do they:
Twitter accounts, whose followers track daily tweets from other followers, are like emails between friends but shorter and open to everyone signed up to the site.
At least they got the name right, I suppose. They didn't call it Tweeter, or Twitterbook.
... whose followers track daily tweets from other followers ...
Hello, Daily Express reader. You might not understand Twitter. It's really quite simple, though - followers track daily tweets from other followers. They follow the followers. No, let me explain - these followers do a daily tweet, and they follow other followers who are following their follows... Hang on. Let's try that again:
like emails between friends but shorter and open to everyone signed up to the site
Yes, so they're like emails. Between friends. Except they're not, they're shorter than emails. And don't go between friends, they go between everyone signed up to the site. Who follow them. And... look: IT'S FAIRLY NEW AND ON THE INTERNET AND THUS IT MUST BE WRONG. And evil.
So the story is really coming together - we've got some blatant lies, some pathetic confusion, and an explanation that is neither accurate nor clear. What we'd really need now is some sort of quote from a person in a position of responsibility saying how terrible this all is. But since there's not actally an "all this" being terrible, where would you find a chump willing to honk off about it?
Hey... does anyone have a number for Tory central office?
Tory MP and former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe said: “This seems like a very odd use of time, particularly as the people tweeting are paid by the licence payer. It is yet another example of the BBC not understanding that it is funded by the licence payer.”
Ann Widdecombe? She thinks Twitter is an "odd use of time", does she? That's hardly surprising - Widdyweb not withstanding, she does seem to approach anything invented after about 1853 as if it's somehow 'odd'. You suspect she still struggles with the idea of 'listening at a walnut cabinet to news coming out of a loudspeaker'. Why is it 'odd' to spend time connecting with your audiences? Blue Peter used to send a letter to every child who sent something in. That was time-consuming, and resource intensive, but it made sense because it was part of making sure everyone felt part of the BBC. Which is right, because we all pay for it.
Still, it's good of Ann to lecture the BBC about not understanding stuff. Although since at least three of the accounts "uncovered" by the Express aren't, erm, funded by the licence payer (World Service drawing cash from grant-in-aid and World Television a commercial operation sitting under BBC Worldwide) she might want to brush up her own understanding before knee-jerking.
While the BBC insists the accounts on Twitter are free to set up, many BBC correspondents are sometimes “tweeting” up to 20 times a day during work hours.
Yeah, damn the BBC with it's "oh, the accounts are free to set up", just because they're free to set up. They've got an answer for everything.
Incidentally, can anyone explain the reason why sometimes the Express uses quotes around tweet and tweeting, and sometimes not?
It's true that - perhaps - some BBC staff are sending up to 20 tweets a day - which would add up to all of forty minutes at most, but given that the Express hasn't even attempted to explain why this is a bad thing, it's a bit like complaining that some continuity announcers are making as many as four announcements in an hour.
To be fair, the Express does quote someone from the BBC:
A BBC spokesman said: “Social media websites are an effective way of engaging with our audiences.
“Twitter is a free service and BBC accounts are popular with many users.”
- which is, awkwardly, demonstrably true.
Still, having thrown down the gauntlet about how connecting with your readers, viewers and listeners is a pointless overhead, the Express does at least practice what it screeches:
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