A year on – the BBC still won’t allow its presenters to wear AIDS ribbons

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A year after causing controversy by blocking its presenters from wearing red ribbons for World AIDS Day, the BBC still appears to be enforcing the ban.

Graham Norton was last year 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 2013 to highlight 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.

This year, the star appeared last Friday, 28 November, without the ribbon. This year’s guests Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters and Hugh Bonneville, as well as Take That, all appeared without wearing the ribbon.

BBC entertainment controller Mark Linsey last year confirmed to PinkNews that he had 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 Daily Telegraph reported a BBC source having said:  “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.

Last year, the BBC allowed presenters to wear Christmas jumpers as part of Save the Children’s fundraising campaign. It is unclear whether they will be allowed to this year.

Former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw last year wrote to BBC Director General Lord Hall over the decision to discipline Graham Norton for wearing the ribbon on, and says the corporation is not being consistent with its own guidelines. PinkNews is unaware of any response having been posted to Mr Bradshaw.

The BBC refused to answer questions from PinkNews about inconsistencies in the policy, the only official exception to is the poppy- which presenters are allowed to wear for Remembrance Day. Calls for the BBC to elaborate on this in 2013 were never returned.