Terrence Higgins Trust: The BBC has lost the argument in banning World AIDS Day ribbons

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Lisa Power, the policy director of Terrence Higgins Trust, has criticised the BBC’s decision to incorrectly label the red ribbon as a “charitable symbol”, in its defence against Graham Norton for wearing the ribbon on his Friday night chat show.

For the past eight days the BBC has refused to accept that the ribbon is an internationally recognised symbol which belongs to no singular charity or organisation.

It has used this argument to justify reprimanding Norton for wearing the ribbon on his programme on 29 November to highlight this year’s World AIDS Day on 1 December.

On Wednesday evening, Lisa Power, policy director of Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), Britain’s largest sexual health and HIV charity, told PinkNews.co.uk: “The red ribbon is not and has never been a symbol of charity it was designed as a simple show of solidarity and defiance. It was intended to be a simple scrap of material that anyone was able to wear without having to pay money to show their support and concern for people with HIV and to raise awareness of the issue of HIV.

“The red ribbon doesn’t benefit any singular charity. I can promise you that it’s easier to find a red ribbon to wear without paying money than a poppy. The BBC needs to work out that they have lost this argument and allow its staff to wear red ribbons if they chose to do so.”

Earlier, former Conservative minister Lord Deben, better known as John Gummer before his 2010 peerage, told PinkNews.co.uk: “It is difficult to understand the ‘jobsworth’ attitude of BBC. The red ribbon is less controversial than the Red Nose and not as specific as Comic Relief. Given we have had no rational explanation from BBC, I think an apology would be in order.

“I cannot see why the BBC continues to annoy the very people who are its staunchest supporters and those most appreciative of its quality and standards.”

The National Union of Journalists said the decision of the BBC to discipline Graham Norton was “heavy-handed”.

Labour MP and former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw revealed to PinkNews.co.uk on Monday that he had written to BBC Director General Lord Hall over the decision to reprimand Norton.

On the same day, the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, Michael Fabricant, tabled a parliamentary question for Culture Secretary Maria Miller over the BBC’s “extraordinary” decision to discipline the presenter.

Central to this story is the question of why the BBC treated Graham Norton’s support for World AIDS Day differently from other cases of presenters promoting singular causes such as Save the Children’s ‘National Christmas Jumper Day’ and ‘Movember’. 

The BBC has continuously refused to answer questions put to it by PinkNews.

Last week, the National AIDS Trust (NAT) criticised the BBC’s decision to ban Graham Norton from wearing the ribbon and called for the corporation to review its guidelines.

It’s urging people to sign an online petition addressed to BBC Director General Lord Hall.