BBC Northern Ireland to be represented at Belfast Pride - 'not appropriate' says Jim Allister
BBC Northern Ireland will be represented at this year's Belfast Pride parade for the first time, it has emerged.
The management of the broadcaster will also allow for particular BBC NI programmes to be promoted at the event, which celebrates the LGBT community.
The news emerged on Friday's Nolan Show and has raised questions of BBC NI's impartiality, as Belfast Pride is also billed as a "weekend of protest" by organisers.
Belfast Pride will take place on Saturday, August 3 and is expected to attract thousands of participants.
LGBT issues, in particular same-sex marriage, are some of the most contentious in Northern Ireland.
Earlier this month, Westminster passed legislation to take steps to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland if Stormont is not restored by October 22.
TUV leader Jim Allister said the move by the BBC is "not appropriate" as the organisation would be taking part in a "political demonstration".
"What is clear now is that the BBC is emphatically, unequivocally and unapologetically on the side of the political debate that is represented by the LGBT community," he said.
"This is a political protest, so by participating, the BBC embrace and endorse that, there's no getting away from that. And that, therefore, totally pulls the rug from under them when they come to say 'we're going to have an objective, impartial debate'."
SDLP councillor Seamas de Faoite, however, said the move is progressive, showing support of LGBT BBC employees.
"BBC staff members who would identify as being LGBT should be entitled to know that their employees are supportive [of their sexuality], just as employees at any organisation are entitled to know their employers are supportive," he said.
"We are in the business of ensuring everyone is treated as equal."
In a statement, BBC NI said: "We're proud to be a diverse and inclusive organisation. BBC Pride is a UK-wide initiative run independently by staff which brings together people of all sexualities working with the BBC, offering friendship, support, advice and a range of events."
"A number of staff have now established the network in BBC Northern Ireland where LGBT employees, their friends, family and colleagues will join staff in their local Pride parade, as BBC colleagues have around the UK.
"Our programmes continue to adhere to editorial values and standards."
Belfast Telegraph Digital