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BBC boss denies staff Pride ban - but adds they must not 'take a stand on contested issues'

LGBTQs are concerned over new BBC impartiality rules

2020-10-30

The BBC’s director general Tim Davie has said new BBC impartiality guidelines do not mean staff are banned from attending Pride parades - if "within the guidelines."

The clarification follows concerns about how the rules apply to Black Lives Matter and trans rights events.

New guidelines, for example, ban BBC news reporters from taking part in “public demonstrations or gathering about controversial issues” (as per The Guardian).

"Attending Pride parades is possible within the guidelines"

In a note sent to senior BBC staff this morning and shared with Attitude, Davie said: "Dear all, thank you for your support in rolling out the editorial guidance on impartiality yesterday. This new guidance, and the rules around social media activity, are significant steps in renewing our commitment to impartiality and securing the trust our audience have in us.

"There is one specific issue where I want to make sure that there is no room for misinterpretation, following inaccurate commentary and some feedback from staff – which is the ability to participate in Pride parades. There is no ban on attending Pride parades.

"The guidance that we published yesterday made it very clear that staff outside of news and current affairs and factual journalism may attend marches, demonstrations and protests as private individuals. I have copied below the relevant extract of the guidance for reference.

"There are different considerations for staff who work in news and current affairs and factual journalism (and senior leaders) but I want to be clear that there is no issue for these staff attending community events that are clearly celebratory or commemorative and do not compromise perceptions of their impartiality.

"If news and current affairs staff are participating in such events they must be mindful of ensuring that they do not get involved in matters which could be deemed political or controversial. There is no ban on these staff attending Pride events. Attending Pride parades is possible within the guidelines, but due care needs to be given to the guidance and staff need to ensure that they are not seen to be taking a stand on politicised or contested issues.

"Protecting the BBC’s impartiality is core to everything we do. We must ensure that we avoid doing anything that endangers audience perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality and to protect the ability of staff in news and current affairs to report fairly and impartially."

The guidelines, which you can read on the BBC website, were issued yesterday. 

They state: "The Editorial Guidelines sections on Impartiality and Conflicts of Interest make it clear that different considerations apply depending on what you do for the BBC, your visibility and your seniority.

"Members of staff outside news and current affairs and factual journalism may attend marches, demonstrations and protests as private individuals.

"These BBC staff are also able to participate in some parades, marches or gatherings, including events such as trade union rallies, under the banner of the BBC group to which they belong, but not representing the organisation as a whole.

"People working in news and current affairs and factual journalism (across all Divisions), as set out in the Guidelines, should not participate in public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues. As with social media activity, judgement is required as to what issues are 'controversial' with regard to marches or demonstrations, though it should be assumed that most marches are contentious to some degree or other. If in doubt, advice should be sought before attending.

"Charity walks, marathons and similar activities can be undertaken by BBC news and current affairs and factual journalism staff (in all Divisions) as fundraising activity for charitable purposes but not for campaigning or political action. BBC staff should not become the face of a charity. Small local charities should not cause issues but advice may be sought."

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