The BBC has formally rejected calls to allow its presenters to wear red ribbons on World AIDS Day.
The corporation is facing pressure to change its rules following criticism of its decision to discipline Graham Norton for wearing an HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon on his Friday night chat show.
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.
All four guests on his show, Jeremy Clarkson, Jo Brand, Colin Farrell and Sharon Osbourne – were allowed to wear the ribbons.
The controversy was raised by Hamish Marshall, a BBC South West reporter and presenter based in Plymouth – who was sent on a BBC training course which said Norton was “in the wrong” for wearing the ribbon.
He said: “During the Safeguarding Values training, an example of practice, ruled as wrong, on the Graham Norton Show was highlighted.
“We were told his guests could wear a red ribbon for World AIDS Day but he couldn’t.
“Despite the cynics in our group saying this would be flouted, we were told that, like the rest of us, Graham Norton has to obey the rules – however much he disagrees with them.”
“Well, guess what happened last week? Graham Norton wore the red ribbon on his show – a couple of days before World AIDS Day.
Mr Marshall added: “Can you ask the powers-that-be what action has, or is, being taken as a result of this (and) is it only ‘talent’ on big contracts who can flout rules if they disagree with them?”
It’s urging people to sign an online petition addressed to BBC Director General Lord Hall.
In response, a BBC spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “The BBC recognises that viewers feel strongly about a wide range of campaigns but, to ensure impartiality, cannot favour one charity or cause over another by allowing the wearing of charitable or campaigning insignia by on screen talent.
“The poppy is recognised as a symbol of national remembrance for those who have died in conflict, and especially in two world wars, and the BBC has a long standing convention of allowing its presenters, reporters and pundits to wear poppies on screen if they wish to in the run up to Remembrance Day.”
In a letter sent to Lord Hall on 11 December, she said: “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.”