A BBC report released last week has criticized parts of the culture of the BBC and compelled the organisation to reform the manner in which it deals with complaints of – among other things – bullying and sexual harassment.
The 80-page report, compiled by barrister Dinah Rose, and set up in the wake of the Jimmy Saville scandal last year, concentrated on the period 2005-2012 and sought to review whether bullying and sexual harassment occurred in the organisation. The views of over 900 former and current staff members were obtained (with 500 of these interviewed) so as to carry out the review and also involved a consultation with relevant trade unions so as to gain a wider perspective.
The report detailed an “undercurrent of fear” that exists at the BBC, with over two-thirds of the 500-strong contingent interviewed stating that they were – or had been – afraid of being made redundant, of being bullied, of losing their job, or of speaking out, among other things. The report also referred to some high-profile staff and managers in the BBC who were seen as “untouchable” due to their perceived value to the BBC. However, the report also highlighted the fact that a relatively low number of complaints regarding sexual harassment had occurred during the period involved, with just 37 reports of sexual harassment being made (approximately 6 a year) out of a workforce of 22,000 staff and 60,000 freelancers.
As a result of the report, the BBC has announced that it will be reviewing a number of key areas in the organisation, including (but not limited to):
- The removal of derogatory statement restrictions (commonly known as “gagging orders”) from future employment contracts and compromise agreements
- A review of the implementation of the bullying and harassment policy, with an issue on dealing with such matters informally
- A new target of dealing with complaints within a 30-day period, with all parties made aware of the outcome
- The appointment and training of an number of expert mediators within the HR team and a drive to improve the training of senior management staff
Commenting on the report, the general secretary of the Trade Union “NUJ” stated that bullying had become an “institutionalised problem” in the BBC but praised the organisation for taking steps to deal with it. Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, also commented that those at the BBC “need to be honest about our shortcomings and single-minded in addressing them” and that he wanted staff members to “feel able to raise concerns and have the confidence that they will be dealt with appropriately”.
Key issues raised in the report:
- The removal of “gagging orders” from contracts and compromise agreements
- An overhaul of the policies dealing with bullying and harassment
- A review of the way in which complaints are dealt with at the BBC
- The creation of a confidential helpline to support staff
- The training of expert mediators in the HR team and retraining of senior managers
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