The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS has written to BBC Director General Lord Hall over the decision to discipline Graham Norton for wearing an HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon on his Friday night chat show.

In a letter sent to Lord Hall on 11 December, Labour MP Pamela Nash said: “I am writing to express my concern about the story circulating in the media yesterday regarding Graham Norton having been reprimanded by the BBC for supporting World AIDS Day by wearing a ribbon for the Graham Norton Show prior to World AIDS Day on 29th November. If this is true, it sends an unhelpful message to the public.”

The MP continued: “Raising awareness of HIV is crucial to ending the epidemic. Globally 35 million people have died from AIDS to date – the ribbon is a way of remembering all of those people while simultaneously encouraging people to get tested. In the UK roughly 100,000 people are living with HIV with a fifth of that number unaware of their infection.

“I hope these statistics help demonstrate why it is so important people like Graham Norton show their support for World AIDS Day. It is a symbol of solidarity, compassion and an important awareness raising tool which the BBC could greatly help by promoting. You will know that other television stations have long allowed their stars wear the red ribbon, most notably on the X Factor. During Prime Minister’s Questions on the Wednesday before World AIDS Day the whole of the Labour front bench wore the red ribbon to show their support, as did backbench MPs across the House. I hope the BBC will recognise that the AIDS ribbon should be allowed to be worn and amend their guidelines accordingly.”

Margot James, the Conservative Party’s first openly gay female MP, tweeted her support for Norton, saying it was time to “change the guidelines.”

Norton ignored instructions not to wear the ribbon on his programme on 29 November to highlight this year’s World AIDS Day on 1 December.

Despite the fact that all of his guests on the Graham Norton Show – Jeremy Clarkson, Jo Brand, Colin Farrell and Sharon Osbourne – were allowed to wear the red ribbons – the presenter was told not to.

On Tuesday, BBC entertainment controller Mark Linsey said: “World AIDS Day is an issue which Graham cares passionately about and he did wear a World AIDS Day insignia on his programme. 

“However, this is in breach of BBC guidelines. The production company has been contacted and reminded that he cannot do this and Graham has accepted he was wrong to do so. The BBC has been assured it will not occur again.”

The National AIDS Trust (NAT) has criticised the BBC’s decision and believes the corporation should review its rules.

It’s urging people to sign an online petition addressed to BBC Director General Lord Hall. More than 500 signatures have already been collected.

PinkNews has contacted the BBC regarding the petition and awaits a response.