BBC director-general Tim Davie publicly clarified staff members are not banned from Pride and trans right marches while also cautioning those in the news department not to take a ‘personal public position’ if they participate.
The BBC published new guidelines of impartiality regarding staff members use of social media on Thursday, October 29. However, due to the language used in the outline and reports from staff meetings in relation to attending Pride events, trans rights marches, and Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the media organisation were met by widespread backlash.
Community members swiftly highlighted the problematic nature of the impartiality guidelines and called out the intentions behind implementing these restrictions. Numerous people questioned the usage of the term ‘virtue signalling’ and how the BBC will rule on what can be seen as ‘political’ or ‘controversial’.
In response to the online outrage, BBC director-general Tim Davie has publicly clarified the media organisation’s support for the LGBTQ+ community while also reiterating that staff members must be mindful of their public image. He said, “I want to be as straightforward as I can on the BBC’s policy: it’s not controversial to be lesbian, or gay, or bisexual, or transgender – either at work or outside of work.”
Speaking about the new guidelines, Davie clarified, “What we’re asking senior leaders, journalists, producers and those of you who work in news and current affairs, as well as factual journalism to do, is to take care when making decisions about participating in events and not to take a personal public position, via your actions or your words, on public policy issues.”
“Specifically on attending marches, it is absolutely fine for these staff to be at Pride or Trans Pride, but it would not be appropriate to be marching with a political party, or with a group advocating specific policy changes,” Davie continued.
While Davie has attempted to address the backlash spurred on by the impartiality guidelines, people called out his comments as being ineffective in tackling this issue. One person wrote, “My life and identity are now fully and officially validated “at work and outside of work” by Tim Davie, director general of BBC. Gee…thanks pal!”
On November 5, UK Pride Organisation Network released a statement, which reads, “UKPON is concerned that the clarification remains ambiguous and open to ‘interpretation’. This, therefore, opens it to indirect or direct discrimination towards protected characteristics based on individual bias.”
Following the confusion of the BBC's new impartiality guidelines last week. Please see the @UKPrideNetwork 's board statement which has been sent to Tim Davie Director-General of the @BBC 2nd November 2020:@EuroPride @InterPride @amnesty @stonewalluk @LGBTfdn @PrideInLondon pic.twitter.com/xFAYlgIL5C
— UK Pride Organisers Network (UKPON) (@UKPrideNetwork) November 5, 2020
“It is our opinion that this could also represent unacceptable enforcement of BBC guidelines into the personal lives of employees. UKPON stands with its LGBT+ community and all marginalised groups facing discrimination,” the statement further reads.
According to iNews, the BBC will also be consulting with those staff members affected by the guidelines. However, the media organisation have allegedly not spoken with BBC Pride, its internal LGBTQ+ group, on these rules.
To further address key concerns from staff members, Davie stated that the BBC will be rolling out a programme of discussion and training sessions in the coming weeks. He said, “I appreciate that this guidance involves many of us making judgement calls about what is and what isn’t appropriate. For some, this will be relatively straightforward, while others will have some questions.”
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