Dozens of bullies still work for BBC after claims upheld

Only 1 person has lost their job…despite 154 bullying and harassment cases over the past 2 years. Photo PETER MACDIARMID/GETTY IMAGES

From Times Monday September 06 2021 Jake Kanter

The BBC has been accused of breaking its ‘zero-tolerance’ promise on bullying and harassment as dozens of staff remain employed by the corporation after being found guilty of wrongdoing.

Eight years after a landmark inquiry into BBC bullying and harassment, commissioned after the Jimmy Savile scandal, The Times has obtained figures showing that misconduct remains an issue and heard concerns that executives were more worried about saving face than protecting complainants.

The BBC has upheld or partially upheld 33 of 154 bullying and harassment cases over the past two years but only one person has lost their job after an internal investigation, a Freedom of Information Act disclosure revealed.

A further 105 grievances were dismissed, while 16 were withdrawn. The BBC has said that it takes ‘appropriate action’ in each case. The figures do not include BBC Studios, which produces shows such as Strictly Come Dancing.” I always thought that BBC Studios was outsourced as revenge for having harboured Savile.

“There have been 508 formal cases of bullying and harassment since 2013, 32 of which involved sexual misconduct claims. The cases hit a peak in the final year of Lord Hall of Birkenhead’s tenure as director-general, when the BBC investigated 92 allegations of wrongdoing. Ten involved sexual harassment.

The nadir came after Hall promised to stamp out bullying after the Respect at Work review by Dinah Rose QC.” He vowed to create a ‘zero-tolerance’ culture where ‘people feel able to raise concerns and have confidence that they will be dealt with appropriately.'” This was the man who investigated Diana’s interview with Panorama – and took no action.

“One person involved in a complaint since the review told The Times that the attitude was ‘more about protecting the institution than the individual’.’ Two others echoed this, including one who had a grievance partially upheld. ‘[The processes] are absolutely horrendous,’ said one source. The third person added: ‘The BBC is mafia-like.’

Paul Siegert (eminently sensible journalist), broadcasting organiser at the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), said: ‘Many of those accused are managers and the BBC are scared to dismiss them because they are worried about the negative publicity. Often those guilty leave quietly with a payoff, a wholly unacceptable way of cracking down on inappropriate behaviour.’

The BBC has also broken its promise to resolve claims in a timely manner after the report said it was taking ‘too long’ over complaints. The BBC said it would settle grievances in 30 days, before acknowledging that complex cases could take 60 days. The broadcaster has concluded cases in an average of 79 days over the past eight years.” That has improved it use to be over 100 days

Siegert said that the NUJ had been involved in some grievances that lasted more than a year. ‘The victims are often expected to carry on working alongside the bully,’ he said.

The BBC said: ‘The BBC should be ambitious about resolving cases quickly, but they can be complex and need to be investigated with rigour and care.'”

Whenever I hear an employer has a ‘zero-tolerance‘ to bullying, I wince – in denial, I think. If you want to understand workplace culture, you need to have an anonymous survey and promote the idea that if someone is being screamed at, someone should intervene in the way that I hope someone being punched would be protected – the attack would be stopped.

Stopping a bully can’t be done without hard evidence or witnesses. As I had to explain to a member who had been racially abused in a lift, it was her word against his, and the only other person in the lift had taken his side – because the offender was their manager. Had the BBC found him guilty, without evidence, he could have sued. However, there are real dangers in keeping bullies. I’ve had to defend a few in my time. I think that every one of them knew what they were doing. Just before I left Bectu, a colleague told me one of them was at it again. Only this time, they were bullying the most vulnerable – trainees.

The BBC needs to do four things to reach Zero Tolerance.

  1. Recognise why bullies and harassers particularly want to work there – the higher the profile of an employer, the greater the status and potential power – these are the things that bullies and harassers most want.
  2. Due diligence when offering jobs, particularly at management grades. What are the worse things ex-reports say about this candidate?
  3. Train HR and management in spotting candidates who might be deceptive and to know what questions to ask to flush them out—the more perfect a candidate, the greater the vetting. Some people’s greatest skill is deception! Think Boris Johnson.
  4. Empower employees to call out unacceptable behaviour at the first signs – that’s not reasonable, that’s not acceptable behaviour.

#BullyingAtBeeb #BullyingAtBBC #BullyingAtWork #WorkplaceBullying

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