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Saturday 31 August 2013

BBC Union Email Row – Mail Silent

The obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre is generally at the front of the queue when there is BBC bashing to be done. And, if there are also accusations of covert surveillance and dirty tricks levelled against the Corporation’s management, one might expect the Mail to be in there like a shot. But on this occasion, the paper has been rather selective in its coverage.
What we know, and what is not controversial, is that the Beeb’s head of Human Resources Lucy Adams is to leave next March, after five years’ service. As she is departing of her own accord, no severance payment will be due (the Mail erroneously leers “she won’t get a golden goodbye”). What is also known is that Ms Adams has been involved in controversy with the NUJ.

And it is here that coverage of the story varies, depending on the paper concerned. Both the deeply subversive Guardian, and the Maily Telegraph, have told that there are allegations that a staff member who was also an NUJ representative had their emails “monitored” during a dispute over changes to the staff pension scheme. The Union is taking the matter to law.

The BBC hotly disputes the allegations, and Ms Adams is also instructing lawyers, so the whole thing could drag on for some time. But why has the Daily Mail – which normally would be all over anything that could be used to paint the Corporation in a bad light – not mentioned the alleged email surveillance? Well, anyone who has been given access to those systems in large corporate may have a good idea why.

When you sign up to using corporate email systems, and perhaps even at login time, notices will be displayed prominently telling users of the various terms and conditions to which they must adhere – on pain, generally, of disciplinary action. Nothing that could reflect badly on the host organisation, nothing that could be classed as bullying or harassment, and nothing for personal gain can be sent.

And users are also notified that emails may be monitored. It’s the company’s system: they don’t need to get a warrant or call the cops, they can just decide to check what you’re sending and receiving. Having observed this in action over the years – including seeing people sent down the road for misuse – I can confirm that monitoring does go on. So I am not surprised at what happened at the BBC.

Equally, I would not be surprised if the reason the Mail was so coy in its reporting of this story was because the Dacre empire uses that kind of practice to keep tabs on the inhabitants of Northcliffe House. I make no accusation here, but can remember what one Mail staffer told Nick Davies: “It’s fear versus good money”. If there is a better reason for not kicking the Beeb, I’d love to hear it.

But be careful which email system you use to contact me, mind.

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