BBC journalists not banned from attending LGBT Pride events, new director-general clarifies

Tim Davie BBC Pride

BBC director-general Tim Davie has reassured staff they are not banned from attending LGBT Pride events under new impartiality guidelines.

He said BBC journalists, who are held to stricter impartiality standards than other staff at the corporation, are still able to attend such events as long as they are not seen to be “taking a stand on politicised or contested issues”.

In an email to senior BBC staff on Friday morning, Davie (pictured) said: “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…

“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.”

The new guidelines state that people working in news and current affairs and factual journalism “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.”

Media union Bectu said “confusion and conjecture” spread on Thursday night after reports that staff would be banned from Pride events for fear of appearing to take sides on the debate over transgender rights.

Pride in London, which runs the capital’s annual Pride parade, was among those calling for the BBC to clarify its position.

Former Labour cabinet minister Andrew Adonis tweeted: “It is unacceptable that BBC staff, or anyone employed anywhere in Britain, should be banned from attending Pride marches. A real blow to equal rights.

“If this is accurate, Tim Davie & the BBC need to reconsider urgently.”

And Daily Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire described the rule as “authoritarian, insulting, crazy and probably unenforceable”.

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said Davie’s clarification was “obviously welcome” and that further concerns about the new guidelines still need to be answered.

“It’s disappointing that there was no consultation with staff unions on these changes ahead of them being announced, and we’ll be raising all the concerns NUJ members and reps have shared with us when we meet the BBC,” she said.

Picture: BBC

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