BBC disciplines Graham Norton for wearing AIDS awareness ribbon on chat show

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Graham Norton has been reprimanded by the BBC for wearing an HIV/AIDS awareness ribbon on his Friday night chat show.

The broadcaster and comedian ignored instructions not to wear the ribbon on his programme on 29 November to highlight this year’s World AIDS Day on 1 December.

Despite the fact that all of his guests on the Graham Norton Show – Jeremy Clarkson, Jo Brand, Colin Farrell and Sharon Osbourne – were allowed to wear the red ribbons – the Irish presenter was told not to.

BBC entertainment controller Mark Linsey has confirmed that he has reprimanded Norton and his production company So Television over their actions.

“World AIDS Day is an issue which Graham cares passionately about and he did wear a World AIDS Day insignia on his programme,” Linsey told BBC in-house magazine Ariel.

“However, this is in breach of BBC guidelines. The production company has been contacted and reminded that he cannot do this and Graham has accepted he was wrong to do so. The BBC has been assured it will not occur again.”

The controversy was raised by Hamish Marshall, a BBC South West reporter and presenter based in Plymouth – who was sent on a BBC training course which said Norton was “in the wrong” for wearing the ribbon.

He said: “During the Safeguarding Values training, an example of practice, ruled as wrong, on the Graham Norton Show was highlighted.

“We were told his guests could wear a red ribbon for World AIDS Day but he couldn’t.

“Despite the cynics in our group saying this would be flouted, we were told that, like the rest of us, Graham Norton has to obey the rules – however much he disagrees with them.”

“Well, guess what happened last week? Graham Norton wore the red ribbon on his show – a couple of days before World AIDS Day.

Mr Marshall added: “Can you ask the powers-that-be what action has, or is, being taken as a result of this (and) is it only ‘talent’ on big contracts who can flout rules if they disagree with them?”

The only exemption to BBC rules is the poppy, which can be worn to support the Royal British Legion.

The Daily Telegraph reports a BBC source saying:  “The whole thing is totally disgraceful – Graham is a well known supporter of AIDS charities and there is no way in the world he was not going to wear the ribbon.

“It means so much to him and is very close to his heart and for the BBC to have a go at him is as unbelievable as it is disgusting.

“His guests were all allowed to wear ribbons – even Jeremy Clarkson – so if Graham didn’t wear one, can you imagine how he would feel?”

ITV, the BBC’s main commercial rival, has allowed judges and presenters on its main Saturday night fixture, X Factor, to wear HIV/AIDS awareness ribbons to mark World AIDS Day for the past several years.

A number of MPs from all parties, including most of Labour’s frontbench, were wearing the ribbons in the final Prime Ministers Questions before World AIDS Day last month.