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TV & Radio

Eight BBC staff disciplined over bullying or sexual harassment allegations last year, figures show

Instances of whistle-blowing at the Corporation are down from 2012 to 2013

Eight members of BBC staff were disciplined over allegations of bullying and sexual harassment in the first nine months of last year – but only one was dismissed by the corporation.

Evidence provided by the BBC to MPs shows that four of those disciplined were given a final written warning and two were given an initial written warning. No further action was taken against the eighth staff member.

The figures also reveal that there has been a fall in the amount of whistle-blowing at the BBC in the past year despite claims of a new era of openness at the organisation in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal at the end of 2012.

The evidence will raise concerns that the BBC is still not doing enough to address internal bullying and harassment, despite accusations that former management turned a blind eye to Savile’s activities, an issue which will form part of an impending report by former High Court judge Dame Janet Smith.

“The figures revealed by the BBC to the Culture, Media and Sports committee on bullying complaints and whistle-blowers show that the corporation is failing to introduce a transparent and fair system and is not dealing properly with the perpetrators,” said Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists. She called for the BBC Director General Tony Hall to take a more hands on role in the matter.

The BBC figures, provided in follow up answers to an oral hearing of the select committee on Culture, Media & Sport in October, show that there were 42 incidents of whistle-blowing in 2012, with 22 of these reported via a special BBC hotline. In the first nine months of 2013, the rate of calls fell to 23 (with only six via the hotline), despite promises of increased openness by BBC senior management.

The allegations by whistle-blowers last year included fraud, sexual assault, harassment, bullying and theft. Three cases since the start of 2012 led to termination of employment.

“It’s very important that the BBC has a robust anti-bullying and whistleblowing policy, all the more so because of recent events,” said Paul Farrelly MP, a Labour member of the select committee.

The Sunday Times reported this weekend on a bullying controversy surrounding the arts unit in BBC Radio.

A report in The Observer on Sunday suggested that Dame Janet’s review had found that Savile had been involved in the rape and sexual assault of close to 1,000 boys and girls in the BBC’s changing rooms and studios. But Dame Janet’s secretariat put out a statement today(Monday) describing the claim as “speculative and unreliable”, saying information had not come from the review team. The Review has been in contact with 720 people and has conducted 140 witness interviews with a further 340 by telephone.

The BBC said: “If people at the BBC are found to have behaved in inappropriate ways then they have appropriate sanctions placed upon them, which may include dismissal. We have launched a dedicated bullying helpline for staff and the BBC has a clear policy in place protecting the right to whistle-blow.”