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In the BBC TV series Killing Eve, references are made to real-world companies, such as Google and Bing.

In contrast, BBC is replaced by BBN. This seemed a bit strange to me, considering that Killing Eve was produced for BBC America. Was there any legal or other reason for why BBC was replaced by BBN but not say Google or Bing?


Google from S01E03:

I'm gonna Google if we can eat it.

Bing from S02E02:

enter image description here

In contrast, a few seconds after the above, we have this:

enter image description here

The look of the above BBN website is obviously exactly identical to the BBC's.

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    Maybe to avoid allegations of product placement for their website? Although would be noteworthy that other BBC series like Doctor Who always used original BBC assets, but I'm not 100% sure if it's been TV shows only or fake websites, too.
    – Mario
    Jul 9 '19 at 6:38
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    @Mario: It's worth noting that Doctor Who is produced by BBC Wales, while Killing Eve is produced by Sid Gentle Films Ltd; so there may be some arcane reason why Doctor Who could use the BBC branding while Killing Eve did not. (And this is all complicated by the fact that BBC Worldwide apparently owns a majority stake in Sid Gentle Films. Every time I read about TV production and distribution I get a headache.) Jul 9 '19 at 14:47
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Consider the real world repercussions of these fictional items being taken out of context.

Saying that you are going to Google something does no harm. Showing a screen shot of search results does no harm. Neither google nor bing make any claims about the accuracy of the content on pages they link to.

But if a recognized news outlet allowed their site to be portrayed with a fake news story then it is effectively the same thing as the news outlet actually printing the fake news story on their website. If somebody asked a Stack Exchange question right now such as "Has anybody ever been murdered in a French hospital?" there is nothing that would prevent a person from answering "Yes, here's a news article of one time that it happened." and using your screen shot as evidence to support their answer. Since it says "BBN" on it, another person might recognize that it was actually from this TV show. Or a person might try going to BBN.com and find that it doesn't exist. The evidence could be recognized as invalid. But if it actually said BBC and had their actual logo then nobody would bother checking the claim. And even if they did try to look it up on the BBC News website and failed to find it they might just assume it was no longer available.

In this situation it would be a small thing with no real harm to anybody but in other cases it could be a huge problem. Imagine if the story in the TV show had the headline "Chinese ambassador attempts to assassinate US President" or "Kenny LJ admits to {insert horrible crime here}." There could be actual harm done. More important to the news outlet, their integrity and reputation would be tarnished. They would also be exposed to a huge lawsuit for libel. Legal departments exist to prevent their organization from being sued, therefore they will not give permission to a show to use the news organization's image.

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  • But then why would it be OK to show an image of the Bing search engine showing the fictitious news story, "Boy murdered in Paris hospital"? Microsoft has no problem with that?
    – user9668
    Jul 9 '19 at 12:57
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    While this could be the case here, I'm pretty sure I have seen films where CNN or other real world news outlets were either referenced or shown 'in-universe" and even sometimes with known news anchors. One season of The Good Wife that featured David Hyde Pierce's Frank Prady was a "CBS" legal commentator and he interviews Alicia whose running for States Attorney, until Frank turns around and runs too. Jul 9 '19 at 13:27
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    bbn.com does exist, but it redirects to raytheon.com/capabilities/innovation. Hopefully most people can figure out that's not a news organization.
    – jpmc26
    Jul 9 '19 at 14:20
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    @DarthLocke yes, real world news outlets are portrayed, but are they showing fake news from in-universe or are they showing clips of actual broadcasts that happen to match up to the show? And as for Pierce's work on The Good Wife, "commentary" is not "news."
    – krb
    Jul 9 '19 at 15:12
  • @KennyLJ Probably because – as krb stated – Google/Bing etc. only show "what they find" (broadly speaking)... being high on their results page doesn't say anything about the truth/fictitious nature of a story, only that it ranked highly. Someone determined, with good SEO skills, could probably get such a fake story onto the first page of Google/Bing but they wouldn't know/care.
    – TripeHound
    Jul 9 '19 at 15:15

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