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No, BBC staff won’t be punished for attending Pride parades under new guidelines

Lily Wakefield October 30, 2020
The BBC has not banned staff from attending Pride parades

The BBC has not banned staff from attending Pride parades. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty)

Despite recent reports on new BBC guidelines, staff will not be suspended or fired for attending Pride parades or marches.

On Thursday (29 October), the BBC released new guidance on “individual use of social media” for its staff, in order “to ensure that the BBC meets its commitment to impartiality”.

The guidance lays out what is acceptable for “those working in news and current affairs” to post on their personal social media accounts.

PinkNews understands that some BBC staff have been told that attending events like Pride parades could, under certain circumstances, subject them to others questioning their impartiality.

According to iNews, an anonymous employee claimed they were told, in relation to the new guidelines, that “they could be issued with a formal warning or suspended from their job if they attend LGBT+ protests”.

However, there is no mention of protests in the guidance, and the BBC told the publication that this is not policy.

In its editorial guidelines on impartiality, the BBC does state: “As with social media activity, for those in news and current affairs and factual journalism (across all divisions) judgement is required with regard to marches or demonstrations, though it should be assumed that most marches are contentious (in terms of impartiality) to some degree or other.

“If in doubt, advice should be sought before attending.”

There is absolutely no direct mention of Pride parades throughout the BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality, nor in briefing notes sent to senior management, which have also been seen by PinkNews.

The BBC did not ban Pride parades, but it did warn staff against ‘virtue signalling’.

Language used in the new BBC social media guidelines is, however, under fire for being a “right-wing insult”.

One section of the guidance reads: “Avoid ‘virtue signalling’ – retweets, likes or joining online campaigns to indicate a personal view, no matter how apparently worthy the cause.”

“Virtue signalling” is a pejorative term often hurled at those with more progressive viewpoints to discredit their opinions, suggesting that a point has been made for the approval of others, rather than because the individual actually believes it.

Actor Stephen Mangan wrote on Twitter: “What?? ‘Virtue signalling’ is a bulls**t right-wing insult to try to silence anyone who suggests some consideration for others.”

Another Twitter user wrote: “[The] BBC’s first action toward moving to a place of neutrality was to warn its employees not to be seen to be virtue signalling.

“Yes! They literally rolled out the well-used right wing trope to warn its employees of their behaviour. Fell at the first hurdle.”

According to iNews, Fran Unsworth, the director of BBC News, reportedly apologised for using the term during internal calls, but the guidance has not been updated to remove it.

More: BBC, bbc pride, Pride, social media, virtue signalling

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