BBC staff can join Pride marches, director general confirms after outcry at new impartiality rules

Tim Wyatt
·2-min read
Some BBC staff had expressed anger at a possible ban on attending Pride events (PA)
Some BBC staff had expressed anger at a possible ban on attending Pride events (PA)

BBC staff will normally be allowed to attend Pride marches, the director general has confirmed, after a day of speculation and anger at new impartiality guidelines.

In an email sent to senior employees at the corporation, Tim Davie said, contrary to some reporting, there was no broad ban on joining Pride demonstrations.

However, those from the news and current affair divisions at the broadcaster could only join Pride or other demonstrations and events if they were careful to avoid anything which could be seen as “political or controversial”.  

“There is no issue for these staff attending community events that are clearly celebratory or commemorative and do not compromise perceptions of their impartiality,” Mr Davie wrote.

“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 reputation for impartiality was “core to everything we do”, he added.  

A row had broken out within the BBC earlier after the corporation published new guidelines on impartiality, which included a crackdown on staff using social media to express personal views on anything connected to politics or deemed to be controversial.

The guidance, which also warned against “virtue signalling” or even using emojis to convey contentious points, prompted concern, mockery and pushback among some BBC workers, including the News at Ten presenter Huw Edwards.

But it also included rules banning news and current affairs journalists and presenters from taking part in “public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues”.  

“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,” the guidance states.  

According to reports, many journalists across the corporation had been told by their local managers this meant attending a Pride march was unlikely to be permitted, prompting an outcry and clarification from Mr Davie.  

However, a BBC spokesperson confirmed Mr Davie’s intervention did not change the new guidance and staff would still be required to assess if any public event or march could be considered contentious or political before attending, even in a private capacity.  

When asked if marches supporting Black Lives Matter or protesting against climate change would count as “clearly celebratory or commemorative”, the spokesperson said there was no list of events ruled as acceptable or not.

Staff, and their managers, would have to make a judgement call as to whether joining such a demonstration would lead to questions about their impartiality.  

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