Tory Vice Chair: BBC ban on Graham Norton’s AIDS ribbon is ‘extraordinary’

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

PinkNews Exclusive. The Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party has tabled a parliamentary question for Culture Secretary Maria Miller over the BBC’s “extraordinary” decision to discipline Graham Norton for wearing a red ribbon on his chat show for World AIDS Day.

On Monday afternoon, Michael Fabricant, the MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire, told “The BBC is clearly inconsistent in their policy about the promotion of various good causes. It seems particularly extraordinary that they have chosen to clamp down on Graham Norton, this year, at the time of World AIDS Day while turning a blind eye on previous occasions.

“Whilst I am not accusing the BBC of homophobia, this does beg interesting questions given their tolerance of other worthwhile charities. I am tabling today a parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to elicit her personal view on this extraordinary decision by the BBC.

“I trust that the BBC’s highly proficient Corporate Affairs department will closely monitor her answer.”

Mrs Miller is also Minister for Women and Equalities.

The Tory MP’s intervention came just hours after Labour MP and former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw revealed to that he had written to BBC Director General Lord Hall over the decision to reprimand Graham Norton.

In previous years, Norton has worn a ribbon on his show for World AIDS Day and faced no action from the BBC.

Both Mr Bradshaw and Mr Fabricant say the corporation is not being consistent with its own guidelines. The BBC has sought to justify its decision to reprimand Norton by pointing to guideline 4.4.20, which states that the BBC “must remain independent and distanced from government initiatives, campaigners, charities and their agendas”.

Yet, in recent days, PinkNews has reported several cases of the corporation allowing its presenters to promote charitable campaigns – apparently in breach of 4.4.20.

‘National Christmas Jumper Day’ was promoted by presenters on the One Show on Friday 13 December. PinkNews asked the BBC why it allowed Chris Evans and Alex Jones to promote ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’ – by wearing jumpers solely aligned to the charity Save the Children.

The response from the BBC failed to answer this question.

In addition, over recent years, male BBC presenters have been allowed to grow moustaches during ‘Movember’ to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer. In 2011, the BBC’s political review programme, This Week, broadcast the corporation’s Deputy Political Editor James Landale having his ‘Movember’ moustache shaved off on 1 December – the same day as World AIDS Day.

The response from the BBC also failed to answer this question.

The BBC has sent emails to PinkNews readers claiming that the red ribbon is a “charitable symbol”. However, such claims are completely inaccurate as the ribbon, unlike poppies, is an internationally recognised symbol relating to HIV/AIDS.

Speaking to PinkNews earlier, Mr Bradshaw indicated the importance of this distinction.

“It is inconsistent for presenters to be allowed, even obliged to wear a British Legion poppy and to grow facial hair to draw attention to prostate cancer but forbidden and reprimanded for wearing a red ribbon,” the MP said.

“The red ribbon does not even support or endorse any particular charity but is a symbol of the world wide battle against HIV/AIDS, which one would have thought was wholly uncontroversial.”

Mr Bradshaw is a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and a former BBC reporter.

The National AIDS Trust (NAT) last week criticised the BBC’s decision to ban the red ribbon and said the corporation should review its rules.

NAT has urged people to sign an online petition addressed to BBC Director General Lord Hall.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Pamela Nash who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS has also written to Lord Hall.