PinkNews Exclusive. Former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has written to BBC Director General Lord Hall over the decision to discipline Graham Norton for wearing a ribbon for World AIDS Day on his chat show, and says the corporation is not being consistent with its own guidelines.
On Monday, the senior Labour MP told PinkNews.co.uk: “I have written to the Director General of the BBC to express my concerns about this and ask him to review the guidance.
“It is inconsistent for presenters to be allowed, even obliged to wear a British Legion poppy and to grow facial hair to draw attention to prostate cancer but forbidden and reprimanded for wearing a red ribbon.
“The red ribbon does not even support or endorse any particular charity but is a symbol of the world wide battle against HIV/AIDS, which one would have thought was wholly uncontroversial.”
Mr Bradshaw is a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and a former BBC reporter.
The broadcaster and comedian ignored instructions not to wear the ribbon on his programme on 29 November to highlight this year’s World AIDS Day (WAD) on 1 December.
In previous years, Norton has worn a ribbon on his show for WAD and faced no action from the BBC.
The BBC has sought to justify its decision to reprimand Norton. Last 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 corporation pointed to guideline 4.4.20, which states that the BBC “must remain independent and distanced from government initiatives, campaigners, charities and their agendas”.
Yet, in recent days, PinkNews has reported several cases of the corporation allowing its presenters to promote charitable campaigns.
‘National Christmas Jumper Day’ was promoted by presenters on the One Show on Friday 13 December. PinkNews asked the BBC why it allowed Chris Evans and Alex Jones to promote ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’ – by wearing jumpers solely aligned to the charity Save the Children.
The response from the BBC failed to answer this question.
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 political review programme, This Week, broadcast the corporation’s Deputy Political Editor James Landale having his ‘Movember’ moustache shaved off on 1 December – the same day as World AIDS Day.
The BBC has sent emails to PinkNews readers claiming that the red ribbon is a “charitable symbol”. However, such claims are completely inaccurate as the ribbon, unlike poppies, is an internationally recognised symbol relating to HIV/AIDS.
The BBC refused to answer various questions put forward by PinkNews on why it makes exceptions to allow red noses for Red Nose Day, exceptions for Children in Need, Sports Relief, ‘Movember’ and Save the Children’s ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’, despite assertions that only poppies are allowed.
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 last 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.”
NAT is urging people to sign an online petition addressed to BBC Director General Lord Hall.