BBC apologises for Blue Peter presenter

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An openly gay member of the London Assembly has accepted an apology from the deputy director-general of the BBC over an incident involving a Blue Peter presenter.

Brian Coleman, deputy chairman of the London Assembly and Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, complained after Konnie Huq appeared at the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s weekly press conference.

In the course of his remarks to journalists the mayor made political comments about Mr Coleman.

Mr Coleman wrote to BBC director general Mark Thompson to complain that this had happened and said that if the corporation was to be involved in events such as these that it should make sure that they are politically neutral.

Blue Peter has been besieged by scandal lately after it was revealed that a call-in competition had been fixed by members of the production staff.

The incident was one of a series of revelations of BBC programmes on radio and TV that had misled viewers.

The BBC was fined £50,000 by broadcasting watchdog Ofcom as a punishment for the Blue Peter incident, the first financial penalty in the history of the corporation.

Mr Coleman said he had a degree of sympathy for the BBC, and that he was satisfied with the full apology and an assurance that such a lapse of editorial judgement will not happen again.

As the national broadcaster, the BBC is required to remain politically neutral at all times.

“If its staff are going to ignore its guidelines and allow themselves to become associated with political events, they know that by doing so they are risking the BBC’s independence,” commented Mr Coleman.

In his letter of apology, BBC deputy director-general said that Ms Huq’s appearance at the press conference had been arranged by her agent without informing Blue Peter production staff.

He assured the London Assembly member that her contract does give the BBC a complete veto over what she can and cannot do and said there would be no repeat of the incident.

Mr Coleman is no stranger to controversy himself.

He outraged Tory party colleagues earlier this year by ‘outing’ former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.

“The late Ted Heath obtained the highest office of state after he was supposedly advised to cease his cottaging activities in the 1950s,” Mr Coleman wrote on the New Statesman’s website.

He claims that the police warning was common knowledge in the Tory party.

Senior Conservative MPs denied that Sir Edward was gay.