The BBC director general has reiterated in an email to employees that news staff will not be banned from attending Pride, despite recent reports to the contrary.
Tim Davies addressed BBC staff in an email on Friday morning following outrage over claims that they could be issued with a warning or suspended under new impartiality rules.
He clarified that this was “inaccurate commentary”, and there is no outright ban on BBC staff 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,” he said.
“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 there is no issue for these staff attending community events that are clearly celebratory or commemorative and do not compromise perceptions of their impartiality.”
However, he continued: “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 that 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 contested or political issues.”
He concludes by reminding staff of the importance of the BBC’s impartiality, which he says is “at the core of everything we do”.
Email sent to BBC staff:
“There are different considerations for staff who work in news and current affairs … no issue for these staff attending community events that are clearly celebratory or commemorative…” pic.twitter.com/xBbQXVzxf5
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) October 30, 2020
While Davies’ email may be reassuring, the restrictions will still chafe for many, considering that Pride was originally intended as a protest.
Questions remain over who decides what constitutes “contested or political issues”, but it has been speculated that the requirement for news staff to remain politically neutral would prevent them from advocating for trans and non-binary people, whose lack of basic rights is a large focus of many Pride marches.
There is also criticism over the “right-wing” language used in the guidance, with one section warning staff to “avoid ‘virtue signalling’ – retweets, likes or joining online campaigns to indicate a personal view, no matter how apparently worthy the cause.”
“Virtue signalling” is a pejorative term often hurled at those with more progressive viewpoints to discredit their opinions, suggesting that a point has been made for the approval of others, rather than because the individual actually believes it.
According to iNews, the director of BBC News Fran Unsworth reportedly apologised for using the term during internal calls, but the guidance has not been updated to remove it.