The National Union of Journalists says the decision of the BBC to discipline Graham Norton for wearing an HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon on his Friday night chat show was “heavy-handed”.

On Wednesday, NUJ National Executive Member Mike Smith told PinkNews.co.uk: “I can see that the BBC needs to be careful about endorsing certain charities above others, but in the context of the show and the presenter, it seemed rather heavy-handed of the corporation to prevent Graham Norton from wearing a red ribbon, when all his guests were able to.”

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 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 Irish presenter was told not to.

He had been allowed to wear the ribbon on his show in previous years.

Labour MP and former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw revealed to PinkNews.co.uk on Monday that he had written to BBC Director General Lord Hall over the decision to reprimand Graham Norton.

On the same day, the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, Michael Fabricant, tabled a parliamentary question for Culture Secretary Maria Miller over the BBC’s “extraordinary” decision to discipline the presenter.

“Whilst I am not accusing the BBC of homophobia, this does beg interesting questions given their tolerance of other worthwhile charities. I am tabling today a parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to elicit her personal view on this extraordinary decision by the BBC,” Mr Fabricant said to PinkNews.co.uk.

Central to this story is the question of why the BBC treated Graham Norton’s support for World AIDS Day differently from other cases of presenters promoting singular causes such as Save the Children’s ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’ and ‘Movember’. 

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.

Along with Mr Bradshaw and Mr Fabricant, Simon Blake, the CEO of young people’s sexual health charity Brook emphasised this important point on Wednesday. 

“The red ribbon is the internationally recognised symbol which demonstrates the importance of care, compassion and an end to the stigma still associated with HIV. There is absolutely nothing partial about promoting and protecting the fundamental human rights of people living with HIV,” he said to PinkNews.co.uk.

Yesterday, the BBC declined a request by PinkNews to comment on criticism from Mr Bradshaw and Mr Fabricant - it also again refused to answer whether the decision to allow James Landale to promote ‘Movember’ broke its own guidelines.