Lib Dem peer: If BBC’s neutrality allows poppies on-screen it must allow AIDS ribbons too

December 19, 2013
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Baroness Barker has become the latest politician to criticise the BBC’s apparent double standards in reprimanding Graham Norton for wearing a red ribbon for World AIDS Day – whilst allowing other presenters to promote singular charitable causes.

On Thursday, the Liberal Democrat peer told “As a public broadcaster the BBC has to maintain neutrality and its integrity as a public broadcaster. Throughout the year the BBC engages with a huge range of charities and causes in a variety of ways. So it should.

“When presenters customarily wear poppies throughout November and moustaches during ‘Movember’ it is difficult to see why Graham Norton should not wear a red ribbon on World AIDS Day.”

For the past nine days the BBC has refused to accept that the ribbon is an internationally recognised symbol which belongs to no singular charity or organisation.

It has used the argument to justify reprimanding Norton for wearing the ribbon on his programme on 29 November to highlight this year’s World AIDS Day on 1 December.

There has been cross-party criticism of the BBC’s stance.

On Wednesday, former Conservative minister Lord Deben, better known as John Gummer before his 2010 peerage, told “It is difficult to understand the ‘jobsworth’ attitude of the BBC. The red ribbon is less controversial than the Red Nose and not as specific as Comic Relief. Given we have had no rational explanation from BBC, I think an apology would be in order.

“I cannot see why the BBC continues to annoy the very people who are its staunchest supporters and those most appreciative of its quality and standards.”

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

The UK’s leading sexual health and HIV charities remain highly critical of the BBC’s actions.

Yesterday, Lisa Power, policy director of Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), Britain’s largest sexual health and HIV charity, told “The red ribbon doesn’t benefit any singular charity. I can promise you that it’s easier to find a red ribbon to wear without paying money than a poppy. The BBC needs to work out that they have lost this argument and allow its staff to wear red ribbons if they chose to do so.”

Earlier, Simon Blake, the CEO of young people’s sexual health charity Brook, said to “The BBC must not stand behind their need to be impartial on this. As one of our finest institutions the BBC should be right up front challenging prejudice and stigma as part of World AIDS Day. I urge them to review their position in time for WAD 2014.”

Last week, the National AIDS Trust (NAT) criticised the BBC’s decision to ban Graham Norton from wearing the ribbon and called for the corporation to review its guidelines.

It’s urging people to sign an online petition addressed to BBC Director General Lord Hall.

The petition has received more than 2,500 signatures.

The BBC has continuously refused to answer questions put to it by PinkNews on why 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’. 

In regards to presenters wearing the poppy, the BBC has simply said: “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.”

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