It is quite a few
months now since I mentioned the issue of social network sites and how they are
increasingly used to promote shows on Community radio stations. Some of the
content in posts I see are entirely acceptable and ‘on message’. Others simply
are not. Let’s look at this again in light of some more recent stuff that is
still getting through your ‘editorial control’ net.

It seems to me that presenters use entries on
social sites to do any number of things. Promoting an upcoming show or feature
or promoting a feature elsewhere on the station you represent on air. Most of
the entries I see are quite innocent, informative or funny and that’s fine. The
confusion happens when a personal comment you make could be seen as comment
made by the station your represent and, even though you don’t see it that way,
the reader does. The line between what is clearly a personal comment or one
that you write as part of your job as a presenter on a radio station is so
blurred it is barely visible.

The law

Before I go any further I would like to outline the
general definition of libel and it would be worth remembering for future
reference. Libel is a) a false publication, as in writing, print, signs, or
pictures that damages a person’s reputation and b) the act of presenting such
material to the public. You cannot write and publish anything that is rude,
nasty, abusive, racist or derogatory about any person. Correct me if I am
wrong, I believe social network sites are public forums, the public have access
to them because presenters actively use them to promote what they do on air.

Other people can read comments made by the
presenter including anything that may be libelous in nature even if they just
see it as a personal viewpoint. If you place a comment that represents your
personal view or opinion on any of the social network sites that is offensive,
derogatory or abusive about any individual in any way, you also need to be
aware of the fact that it is a written statement made by you that has been
placed in the public domain by you. It could be interpreted as libelous if the
person who is the subject of your of your comment sees it and feels it damages
his or her reputation.

If you also promote your show by using the same
site, you instantly make the connection between the personal comments made by
you and the station you work for. Why is this? Readers of the abusive comment
do not see any separation between the promotion of your show and the abusive
comments made because there is no separation between them. I have seen some of
those personal comments and the content is at the very least, questionable and
could be interpreted as outside of the law. I am aware of one recent comment
that was definitely over the line but will not refer to what it said as I could
be accused of libel too. If you are a manager of a community radio station you
need to be acutely aware of the content that is associated with a show on your
station.You may be very surprised at what you see and how your station is
portrayed in that particular forum. I guarantee that some of what you see will
not make you a very happy person.

The marketing mix

There is the mistaken belief in community radio
that social networks are the best way to promote your station. They should be
part of the marketing mix but they are not the answer to selling your station
locally. The amount of people who listen to community radio online is still
smaller compared to those who listen locally on a radio. Funnily enough, most
community radio stations will have, at some point broadcast online only and may
have done so for some time. I hear stations with an ‘online promotion’ habit
that is dated and simply does not apply to a community radio station
broadcasting to a much wider local audience on FM. Of course, social media has
a part to play in what you do but if you want social media to be part of the
station marketing mix you must manage it and not allow it to manage you. It is
worth remembering that Community Radio is a social network in itself and was
around long before that term was ever invented and is still one of the most
powerful interactive media there is.

My advice is to stop presenters using social media
sites to promote themselves in an uncontrolled ways because there is no
separation between what is written on behalf of your station and what is not.
Your listeners can read both and believe me; all it will take is for one
individual to take offence at a comment made by one of your team and you could
find yourself apologising financially to OFCOM after a complaint was made and
upheld.

Create instead a strong radio station identity on
social networks that presenters can work within and promote on air. But it must
be monitored in the same way as you are monitoring the output of your station
on a daily basis. You do monitor the output of your station daily… don’t you?