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Where talking about Facebook on air is banned

Sparkly subway map in Stockholm

Public radio in Sweden has been instructed not to encourage listeners to go and find them on Facebook. It’s against the law.

The country’s Review Board has “convicted” the popular radio station P4 for suggesting to listeners that they “like” its morning show on Facebook. The regulator’s concerns centre on promotion of a commercial business (Facebook) by a public utility (Swedish Radio).

Swedish journalist Anders Mildner says this presents a dilemma for the broadcaster because P4 wants to take advantage of the Facebook platform which many of its listeners use.

According to this latest ruling (pdf), the law in Sweden appears to allow public radio stations to acknowledge their presence on Facebook but not actually encourage people to go there. Now there’s an interesting brief for a promo.

It’s not often you hear it said, but compared to Swedish standards, our attitude and practice in the UK  is considerably relaxed.

Radio stations here regularly connect with listeners on third-party sites, largely Facebook and Twitter but also YouTube, Flickr and others, and use that connection to enhance the on-air programming.

The BBC’s set of social media guidelines encourages its broadcasters to engage in open, transparent use of social media while protecting against “undue prominence” on air. For example, it does not permit third party URLs to be read out on the radio but presenters can mention the sites and the activity when it’s directly editorially relevant.

However this isn’t the only possible model and I hear a range of views on the matter from media colleagues. Some find a protective closed wall approach to their content rather appealing. Of course Rupert Murdoch has taken this line with his paywall approach to online newspapers.

At the opposite extreme others suggest media businesses of the future will be able to operate perfectly well solely through social media outlets run by third parties. They may not need websites of their own.

Personally, I prefer the proven ‘middle way’: create an engaging presence in the places your listeners and target listeners are likely to frequent. Then use it to entice them deeper into your content on your own website and radio station.

This model allows tone of voice to be adapted for each social media environment and ensures that any revenues generated around your best content will drop into your pocket and not that of Mr Zuckerburg.

And even in Sweden it would seem to be permitted, so long as nobody tries promoting it on air.

Photo: Sparkly subway map in Stockholm by James Cridland, on Flickr. Used under licence.

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