BBC insists impartiality will be maintained as staff attend Belfast Pride
The broadcaster has addressed controversy which arose when it announced workers in its BBC Pride group would be attending Saturday’s event.
BBC Northern Ireland has moved to address controversy around staff members attending Belfast Pride by insisting the broadcaster is not participating corporately.
The BBC has faced questions over impartiality – given that same-sex marriage is a contentious political issue in the region – since announcing staff in the organisation’s BBC Pride group would be attending Saturday’s event.
A memo to workers issued last week said staff would be participating in the annual Pride parade wearing BBC-branded T-shirts. A statement also mentioned BBC Northern Ireland in the context of employees taking part.
A day ahead of the event, BBC NI director Peter Johnston acknowledged there had been “confusion” about the “terms and basis for BBC staff involvement in the Belfast Pride parade 2019”.
We will continue to report and provide a forum for debate about issues relating to same-sex marriage in ways that are fair, accurate and impartial Peter Johnston, BBC NI director
He said while members of the BBC Pride staff network – an employee-led initiative – would be taking part, BBC NI as a corporate body would not.
“We know that there are legislative issues specific to Northern Ireland in relation to same-sex marriage,” he said.
“These raise important considerations for the BBC in the context of its editorial guidelines, including the requirement to maintain due impartiality within our output.
“None of this means that members of the BBC Pride network cannot be involved in Pride festivities in Belfast, but it does require BBC Northern Ireland to avoid creating the impression that it has a position on matters of political contention or controversy.
“The BBC’s editorial guidelines provide clear advice in this regard. It is on this basis that BBC NI will not be involved corporately in the Belfast Pride parade and that individual programme brands will not be represented.
“As, and if, wider circumstances change, we will keep all of this under review. And we will continue to report and provide a forum for debate about issues relating to same-sex marriage in ways that are fair, accurate and impartial.”
The ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is one of the key disputes at the heart of the region’s two-and-a-half year powersharing impasse.
Mr Johnston added: “Our fundamental commitment is to serving and reflecting the needs of all BBC audiences and to achieving that objective with a diverse workforce in which everyone is valued.”
Ulster Television (UTV) staff members will take part in Belfast Pride for the third time on Saturday.
The ITV-owned organisation participated in the event for the first time in 2017, with several well-known UTV broadcasters taking part.
A spokeswoman for UTV said the company was proud to be involved.
“UTV is proud to be involved in Belfast Pride for a third year,” she said.
“Pride events take place all over the UK and our ITV colleagues, both on and off screen, take part and support the events.
“As an organisation, we celebrate diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and in society in general. We are delighted to be taking part in the parade, which will include other big-name local companies, families and individuals.”