Why can BBC presenters promote Comic Relief but not World AIDS Day?

December 13, 2013
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The BBC is refusing to explain the difference in allowing presenters to promote Comic Relief by wearing red noses – and not allowing presenters to promote World AIDS Day by wearing red ribbons.

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.

When asked by PinkNews why Comic Relief Red Noses could be worn by presenters to promote the Comic Relief charity’s main annual fundraising event, the corporation pointed to the guidelines published on its website.

The BBC refused to answer the following questions by PinkNews.

Why is the BBC labelling the red ribbon as a charitable symbol?

The BBC has sent emails to PinkNews readers claiming that the red ribbon is a “charitable symbol”. This is not the case as it 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.

PinkNews asked the BBC if it was labelling Norton’s red ribbon as a “charitable symbol” because it was sold by the National AIDS Trust. We asked this question because there are red ribbons sold for World AIDS Day by hundreds of charities around the world.

Could a BBC presenter decide to simply wear a piece of red ribbon as part of their outfit?

PinkNews asked the BBC if Norton would have been allowed to wear a piece of red ribbon that he purchased from a Haberdashery retailer instead of from a charity. This would not be linked to a charitable or political cause and simply be a piece of red ribbon. Or is there instead a blanket ban on presenters wearing red ribbons on their outfits during the awareness period for World AIDS Day.

Why are BBC presenters allowed to promote Red Nose Day and Children in Need?

Symbols for both charities are promoted on air, one of these charities is administered by the BBC itself.

Why are BBC presenters allowed to wear poppies, which are only sold in the UK by the Royal British Legion and the Haig Foundation?

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 intrinsically linked to specific charitable causes, unlike the red ribbon.

In a statement earlier on Friday a BBC spokesman told “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.”

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.

Related topics: AIDS awareness ribbon, AIDS ribbon, BBC, Graham Norton, HIV, HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon, HIV/AIDS awareness ribbons, world aids day

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