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BBC mulls talent Twitter ban to prevent storyline spoilers

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Updated A ban on the use of Twitter and other public forums is being considered by BBC bosses, in an effort to prevent stars and writers from talking about details of the broadcaster's confidential upcoming productions online.

The Guardian, which cites senior sources, reports that BBC execs are mulling over the possibility of tweaking contracts to stop talent from blurting out storyline spoilers, casting news and planned press announcements.

Singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor recently let slip on Twitter that she would appear alongside Sting in a new BBC comedy series fronted by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant called Life's Too Short.

The Beeb had planned to make a big announcement about Sting's appearance in the show, before she disclosed the details on the microblogging site.

"There's no doubt that Twitter is a popular communications phenomenon but it can also be quite disruptive if artists tweet about an appearance on a show or announce a new commission before the broadcaster is ready to go with the story," an anonymous BBC exec told The Guardian.

"Broadcasters can have a number of reasons for wanting to delay press announcements, such as the deal not being done or contracts not being signed or, indeed, the broadcaster wanting to make a big splash with a great story at a particularly opportune moment. A random tweet can rob an artist of his or her potentially much louder fanfare."

Currently, stars and writers typically seek advice about the use of Twitter and other online forums from their producers and agents. The BBC has urged those individuals to provide their talent with the appropriate Beeb guidelines on such usage.

But such conduct is currently difficult to police, given that many stars use Twitter and the like in a personal capacity.

However, as one television drama editor pointed out to The Register today, most performers are required to sign confidentially agreements when they join a new, yet-to-be-screened production, so it's unclear why such a watertight contract doesn't already extend to the use of Twitter. ®

Update

The Corporation issued this statement late this afternoon:

"The BBC is not banning the use of Twitter by talent or writers. The BBC has clear guidelines in place for both the personal and professional use of social media, and we encourage staff, writers and talent to use social media, provided it does not break any confidentiality agreements."

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