The BBC faces fresh criticism this weekend as, despite saying that its presenters could not wear red ribbons to promote HIV/AIDS awareness, some of the BBC’s biggest name presenters on Friday, with the consent of the corporation, promoted ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’. On World AIDS Day 2011, a BBC presenter was filmed shaving off his ‘Movember’ moustache to raise awareness for prostate cancer. According to documents sent to PinkNews, these actions appear in direct contravention of the BBC’s own guidelines.
Controversy erupted last week as Graham Norton was disciplined for wearing a red ribbon in promotion of World AIDS Day, and the BBC refused to change its policy on the matter, despite heavy criticism.
The BBC said that to “ensure impartiality”, its presenters were not permitted to wear “charitable or campaigning insignia”, and incorrectly labelled the red ribbon as such, even though the ribbon is not linked to a particular charity.
‘National Christmas Jumper Day’, which was promoted by presenters on the One Show on BBC One on Friday evening, is the exclusive trademark of charity Save the Children. According to the guidelines for charitable and cause based promotions sent by the BBC to PinkNews on Friday, the programme’s presenters should not have been promoting a specific cause.
PinkNews asked the BBC why it allowed its presenters Chris Evans and Alex Jones to promote ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’ through wearing Christmas jumpers and through vocally discussing the campaign, despite claiming to have guidelines prohibiting such activities, and given that ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’ is not a nationally recognised day of people wearing Christmas Jumpers and it is not recognised by statute within the United Kingdom or indeed overseas.
In response, and specifically choosing not to directly answer any of the questions sent by PinkNews, a BBC spokesperson said: “Last night’s edition of The One Show had a knitted theme and included guests based on this topic. In keeping with this theme and the festive season the presenters wore Christmas jumpers. The One Show also reported on the Save the Children Guinness World Record attempt, as did several other news and media outlets, as this was a topical timely news event.”
The reality was that Chris Evans introduced the programme saying “It is National Christmas Jumper Day” before proceeding to trigger his co-presenter’s flashing red nose on her jumper. Jones later added” “This morning hundreds of people turned out to participate in the world record for the most number of people dancing in a Christmas jumpers, all in aid of Save the Children.” It was clear from both the reference to ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’, a trademark of Save the Children, and the later reference to the charity’s world record attempt, that both presenters were either wearing Christmas themed jumpers to support the charity or some bizarre coincidence had occurred that also meant that the presenters and around thirty people in the studio appeared wearing Christmas themed jumpers.
In addition, over recent years, male BBC presenters have been allowed to grow moustaches during ‘Movember’ to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer. In 2011, the BBC’s influential political review programme This Week broadcast the corporation’s Deputy Political Editor James Landale having his ‘Movember’ moustache shaved off. Ironically, this was broadcast on the 1st December, World AIDS Day.
The BBC earlier this week sent emails to PinkNews readers claiming that the red ribbon is a “charitable symbol”. However, such claims are completely inaccurate as the symbol, unlike poppies, the red ribbon is an internationally recognised symbol relating to HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day was launched by the World Health Organisation and is now administered by the joint UN programme for HIV and AIDS.
The BBC refused to answer various questions put forward by PinkNews on why it makes exceptions to allow Red Nose Day, Children in Need, Sports Relief, Movember and Save the Children’s ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’ to be promoted, despite assertions that only poppies are allowed, but not World AIDS Day.
In its questions, PinkNews noted that poppies are the traditional recognised symbols for Armistice Day but are exclusively sold in the UK by two charities, the Royal British Legion and the Scottish Haig Foundation. They are therefore intrinsically linked to specific charitable causes, unlike the red ribbon.
In a statement earlier on Friday a BBC spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “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.”
PinkNews also asked whether a presenter could wear just a piece of red ribbon from a haberdashery or whether that would also be prohibited. Along with the other questions, this was not answered.
Earlier this week, Benjamin Cohen, the publisher of PinkNews, questioned the BBC’s stance on Norton given that his programme is primarily used to promote Hollywood films, albums and books. Today he added: “If there is a rule banning the promotion of charities and causes by BBC on-screen talent then this has to be applied across the board. If it is wrong to promote HIV and AIDS awareness then it should also be wrong to promote awareness of prostate cancer. Having uneven standards when it comes to HIV and AIDS, a global killer, only adds to the stigmatisation of those living with the condition. Either ban all promotions across the board or give presenters the choice to promote causes close to their heart.”
NAT is urging people to sign an online petition addressed to BBC Director General Lord Hall.