Former presenter calls on BBC to stamp out bullying

Reed: awarded £5,300 in compensation

A former Radio Bristol presenter has called for changes in the BBC’s grievance procedure to stamp out the "bullying culture" after winning her unfair dismissal case.

Helen Reed was awarded £5,300 in compensation by a Bristol industrial tribunal where she accused Radio Bristol managing editor Jenny Lacey of forcing her out of her job.

"The grievance procedure is completely undemocratic and I think it’s very important that it is changed," said Reed, who worked at the station for seven years. "I don’t want future BBC employees to go through the suffering that I did with the internal process. It’s very important that a more independent system is set up."

A motion supporting her demands for an independent panel to deal with staff grievances and more transparent procedures was passed at the NUJ’s conference earlier this year.

NUJ deputy general secretary John Fray called on the BBC to stamp out the bullying culture he claimed thrives in its newsrooms. He added that although concerns had been raised "at the highest level" about a number of bullying cases, there had been no progress in securing a meeting on the subject in the past six months.

"Helen’s case proves once again that the BBC’s procedures fail to deliver fair treatment. It needs to put its house in order," said Fray.

"Greg Dyke told all the staff to cut the crap. He must remind his managers to do just that and stop protecting the bullies. It’s got to sort out its procedures for dealing with complaints about managers, or it’ll just have more unhappy newsrooms and more cases going to court."

The tribunal heard that Reed’s contract as a broadcast assistant was not renewed in March last year and she later lost her job as a presenter after the NUJ took up her case.

It was claimed Reed was dropped because Lacey wanted to change the "light" Morning West breakfast show she presented to a "harder” news programme.

Lacey told the hearing that attempts had been made to develop Reed to enable her to carry out further work, but claimed she was "not developing".

"She was producing very one-dimensional pieces and did not have the understanding of what was needed to develop herself into a fully fledged broadcast assistant," Lacey said.

In announcing that Reed’s dismissal had been unfair, tribunal chairman Christopher Tickle said the BBC had shown a lack of professionalism in not giving her sufficient training.

"We believe she has been pigeon-holed and not been given any opportunity to show she can do more than what people perceive her to be able to do," he said. "Jenny Lacey is a very different personality from the applicant – therein lies some of the problems in this case. Nonetheless, employees should be treated with consideration and care when there is an obvious clash of personalities involved."

Julie Tomlin

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