Exclusive: Latest BBC scandal? Broadcaster ‘faces 140 allegations of bullying’
NUJ report claims scores of cases still unresolved despite review in wake of Savile revelations
Ian Burrell is Assistant Editor and Media Editor at The Independent, i paper and Independent on Sunday. He covers news from the whole media sector from television, press, radio and advertising to technology. His weekly column on the media appears every Monday in The Independent and i paper. He also writes on media, music and culture, including long-form pieces for The Independent’s Saturday magazine and the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, New Review. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s What The Papers Say and a specialist commentator to Monocle 24 radio. He has contributed to most major broadcast outlets including BBC television and radio, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and LBC. He has also written on media for GQ magazine. Ian has been reporting on the media industry for The Independent for more than a decade. Previously he was the newspaper’s Home Affairs Editor. He worked at The Sunday Times for five years, including as a member of the investigative Insight team, covering stories on political funding, industrial espionage and the arms industry. Previously he worked in ITV for London Weekend Television, on a weekly current affairs programme presented by Danny Baker. Ian trained at the Birmingham Post & Mail and was Regional Reporter of the Year in Press Gazette’s national awards.
Tuesday 20 August 2013
The BBC is still facing 140 “live” allegations of bullying brought by members of the organisation’s own staff in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, it is claimed.
Three senior managers within the BBC’s News Division are understood to be the subject of multiple allegations brought by their colleagues.
The BBC director general Tony Hall is due to appear before the BBC Trust next month to report on what the organisation is doing to reduce the problems of bullying and to investigate the allegations that have been made.
The revelation that a substantial number of BBC managers remain the subject of serious complaints follows the publication last May of a Respect at Work review, led by the barrister Dinah Rose QC, which described a “strong undercurrent of fear” at the BBC. It stated that 35 members of staff were involved in 37 cases of alleged sexual harassment over the past six years. Two were dismissed and one was given a written warning.
A report to be published this week in House News, the newsletter of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) at the BBC, suggests that the problem of bullying is much more widespread and that many cases remain live and unresolved.
“Group complaints against individual senior managers are being pursued in several locations in national network news. Allegations of abusive and inappropriate conduct by managers are also being investigated in several departments in Global News,” said the report. “In all, it’s understood 140 cases are live and being investigated across the BBC.”
The NUJ complains that some cases have been “stretched out” for more than a year.
During the Rose review the BBC called in an outside consultancy, Change Associates, to listen to grievances and conduct one-to-one interviews with BBC employees. Some 930 members of staff came forward to give their views.
When the review was published, the BBC said it was introducing new helplines for staff and was removing “gagging clauses” from contracts which might have prevented employees from speaking out.
Lord Hall responded to the report by saying: “We need to be honest about our shortcomings and single minded in addressing them. I want zero tolerance of bullying and a culture where people feel able to raise concerns and have the confidence that they will be dealt with appropriately.”
The Independent reported in February that one senior BBC executive was the subject of more than 20 separate bullying allegations. The matter is unresolved. Two of the group complaints concern executives in the BBC’s domestic news division, with one relating to a manager in World News.
The probes are being led by investigating managers from outside departments who receive evidence and reach an independent finding. But some of the cases are said to be highly complex.
The Rose review was initiated by the former director general George Entwistle last October after news emerged that many of Savile’s alleged offences took place on BBC premises. “The allegations that have arisen in the last few weeks that date back decades have truly shocked me,” he said at the time.
Sources in the BBC’s human resources department expressed surprise at the scale of live bullying cases being quoted by the NUJ and said they believed the number of active investigations was “substantially lower” than 140.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on the status of any individual cases. However, any allegation of bullying is taken seriously and investigated in accordance with BBC policy. Following the publication of the Respect at Work Review we have continued to talk to staff, unions and other broadcasters about tackling the problem of bullying in the media and the subject is regularly discussed by the BBC Management Board.”
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