BBC forced to remove 'misleading' clock from its homepage

Site simply replicates time from the user's own computer

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At the third stroke the time will be…whatever you want it to be. The BBC has admitted that the clock displayed on its website homepage is misleading because it simply reproduces the time stored on each user’s own computer.

Now it is to remove the clock from the site after admitting that it has been giving users an inaccurate impression of the time.

The announcement came after the BBC’s Editorial Standards Committee upheld a complaint that the analogue-style clock, which ticks away on the top left-hand corner of the corporation’s website homepage, was inaccurate.

The complainant said that he and other web users expected the clock to be factually accurate and it was of no use to anyone if the website did not display an accurate record of the time.

The BBC confirmed that the clock time displayed on the portal, used by millions of web browsers, was actually taken from each individual computer’s internal system clock, whether it was accurate or not.

The Managing Editor of BBC Online said the website did not offer an accurate, independently-generated clock because this would “dramatically slow down the loading of the BBC homepage, something which he believed was an issue of great importance to the site’s users.”

The BBC also said that it would be impossible to offer a single, zonally-accurate clock to web users across the world.

The Committee concluded that, in the absence of clear labelling to the contrary, users of the website would assume that a clock provided by the BBC on its homepage would “reflect as accurately as possible, bearing in mind the technological constraints of delivering data across the internet, the right time in the UK.”

Having a homepage clock which does not reflect the right time in the UK, “is not consistent with the Guideline requirement for the BBC to do all it can to ensure due accuracy in all its output.”

The Committee concluded that the BBC Executive should, “within a reasonable time frame, remedy the situation to ensure that the BBC complies with its requirement to ensure due accuracy in all its output.” The BBC however did not “knowingly and materially” mislead website users in this instance.

A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC takes accuracy very seriously. Given the technical complexities of implementing an alternative central clock, and the fact that most users already have a clock on their computer screen, the BBC has taken the decision to remove the clock from the Homepage in an upcoming update.”