BBC Bans Reporters from Pride, Trans Events

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday October 30, 2020

BBC Bans Reporters from Pride, Trans Events
  (Source:Jeff Chiu/AP)

The BBC, responding to criticism that it has a liberal bias, has instituted stricter "impartiality" rules that mean staffers can no longer attend Pride marches, trans rights rallies, or other "controversial" demonstrations, without risking disciplinary measures such as warnings or suspensions, the news site i reports.

BBC staffers were given to understand that attending Pride events even in a personal, rather than news-related, capacity would be forbidden, UK newspaper The Guardian reported.

"Journalists in BBC newsrooms across the UK told the Guardian that managers had informed them that while pride marches were not specifically mentioned by the guidelines, journalists would be stopped from attending due to the new rules," the newspaper said.

"BBC sources did not dispute this, but said the interpretation of the rules would at the discretion of local managers."

The policy's wording states that "judgment 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 Guardian article added.

The new policy applies to staff involved with news and current affairs coverage, i reported, and warns against "virtue signaling," in the words of Tim Davie, the news organization's director general.

Davie also told staff that they could face disciplinary measures if they seem to lend support to certain organizations or movements "no matter how apparently worthy the cause or how much their message appears to be accepted or uncontroversial," i reported. In addition to Pride events, the restrictions also extend to Black Lives Matters protests, for example.

Another aspect of the new policy is that it seeks to put any gatherings or demonstrations that might be perceived as controversial off limits; in the case of Pride events, for instance, when it comes to any event that might be interpreted as supportive of the " 'trans issue,' as it was described, the rules on impartiality apply," i reported.

LGBTQ staffers are reportedly unhappy with the new, tighter restrictions. A BBC employee told i that the move was "obviously to please [rival publication] the Daily Mail and to make the BBC less of a target by rolling back".

The BBC's new policies also clamp down on social media use by its news and current affairs staff. The updated guidelines "explicitly warn reporters that liking posts on Twitter and other social media platforms could be seen as a sign of 'revealed bias,' " the Guardian story said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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