In the last decade many a protests has happened along British streets and yet, in this time the BBC has made it harder for their employees to join in solidarity and even more recently the Public Order Act has tried further to push back the front marchers.
According to the BBC’s editorial guidelines, the broadcaster’s staff, including journalists, are expected to remain impartial and neutral in their professional activities. This includes not participating in any political protests or activities, as it could be perceived as biased. And any breach of the guidelines can result in disciplinary action.
BBC presenter Chris Packham was protesting alongside Just Stop Oil for their latest disruptive stunt in London, yesterday.
Just Stop Oil’s latest protest saw the team hold up traffic in central London at rush hour, causing disruption to commuters and residents of the city.
It’s not the first time Packham has faced a BBC probe for his comments; he previously triggered outrage in 2013 after branding government officials ‘brutalist thugs, liars and frauds’ in a series of tweets.
BBC bosses launched an investigation into the posts following a complaint by the Countryside Alliance which claimed they went against the corporation’s impartiality rules.
It found Packham breached a BBC voluntary code of conduct as the tweets were not politically neutral.
The rules on impartiality, were introduced alongside strict social media guidelines by BBC director general Tim Davie in 2020, to prevent news reporters and staff who work in current affairs from taking part in “public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues”, even in their spare time, in case their presence is seen as a sign of political bias.
David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, reportedly told a meeting of senior executives that the new rules include not attending “political protests”, such as Black Lives Matter events and LGBT rights protests, although these are not specifically named in the guidelines.
In an email to employees Davie’s said: “Protecting the BBC’s impartiality is core to everything we do. We must ensure that we avoid doing anything that endangers audience perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality and to protect the ability of staff in news and current affairs to report fairly and impartially.”
So is this the start of the end for certain freedoms, with the BBC and government policy clamping down on the right to protest.