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BBC �Free Speech Snub� Spawns Rival Independent Today Forum

Amid fury from the vast majority of its most prolific members last week, the BBC announced that it was changing the format of its online Message Boards. Despite accusations of a deliberate attack on free speech, the �Beeb� stuck to its plan to reduce the number from 5 to 2, and most controversially to prevent members starting their own topics. This has now led to the appearance of a rival �Independent BBC Today Forum� at http://bbcTodayForum.co.uk

For years regular posters have been complaining at the �nit-picking and totally inconsistent� �Auntie Beeb� attitude of the �Moderators� who were increasingly prone to remove messages from the Board on the grounds that they broke the House Rules, which some claimed they made up as they went along. Far from listening to their public and relaxing their grip, the BBC has clamped down and only topics approved by the BBC can now be discussed.

In the last three days of the old Home News Board members were queuing up to post messages of complaint - direct, accusatory, resigned, sarcastic. One of the normally more pro-establishment posters, nicknamed �Serendip,� wrote �Bitter and twisted doesn't even begin to describe it, does it? What a insular inward looking bunch of miserabalists and lachrymose drama queens.�

90% of Members Walk Away

The Moderators were just as hectically removing posts so that many topic threads ended up with the title �Hidden,� leaving the topic like a headless chicken with several comments on an unexplained subject.

Messages attacked the BBC in plain terms insisting that it was quite deliberately trying to suppress free speech. Often the accusations linked this with parallel claims of the Blair Government�s clamp down on civil liberties and the Government�s �castration� of the BBC after the Hutton Inquiry.

But now all has gone quiet at the BBC�s main new Message Board, which is more specifically linked to the Today Programme than before. It is estimated that the daily postings now are only about 10% of the previous average on the old Home News board, despite there being only two boards instead of five.

However, the �Mods� are still removing a considerable number of posts, even though they choose the topics. Mentions of the new rival Forum are usually removed. In one message that did remain on view, Richard 3915 wrote �My post about freedom of speech was moderated on the "freedom of speech" thread. Can you see why I am still very confused?�

Forum with No Moderation

By contrast, the rival Independent BBC Today Forum at http://bbcTodayForum.co.uk which was created specifically to remedy this situation, states that it has no ongoing moderation and only in the most extreme cases will it remove a message. �We practice what we preach,� reads an opening statement. Moreover it is open 24/7 - 168 hours a week against the BBC�s mere 76 so that night owls can join in the discussions - and �You can start any topic you like, talk about what interests YOU.�

The Forum amusingly claims to have software which automatically changes any profanity into other words - like �I am about to be banned because I am a profane person-off,�

Provocatively, it�s raison d�etre reads, �This is the Forum for Discussions about anything, but especially Current Affairs and particularly those mentioned (or strangely ignored) in the BBC Today Programme.� Found at http://bbcTodayForum.co.uk ###

Submitted by:

Peter Smith

Peter Smith is a prolific commentator applying New Testament principles to British & International Current Affairs, to threats to free speech and democracy, and to Religion and Science


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