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Bullying culture at BBC must be tackled

28 March 2013

Colleagues of Russell Joslin, the BBC journalist who took his own life after reporting sexual harassment at work, said he should be remembered as "a valued friend".

His NUJ BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Chapel said:

"The BBC has announced the results of its investigation into the tragic passing of Russell Joslin. As colleagues of Russell, we want to ensure that our dear colleague and friend is remembered and honoured in the right way.
"It is important to us that Russell's memory is kept alive so that we remember all that was good about him. He was an inspiring colleague and a valued friend to all of us and we miss him. Our thoughts are with Russell's family at this difficult time.
"We are currently talking to each other about how we can best remember Russell and are looking at ways to give tribute to his life in an appropriate and fitting way. We will make an announcement when we feel the time is right."

The BBC has now apologised, admitting that the corporation had not done enough. It has published an internal report into Russell's allegations of sexual harassment and how the BBC's management responded. The full report by Lesley Granger, a former BBC human resources executive, can be seen here.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"Our thoughts are with the family of Russell. The union is on strike today because we are standing up against the endemic bullying in the corporation. The report on Russell and the BBC's apology is an acknowledgement that the management has not been properly dealing with this issue.
"We hope the forthcoming Respect at Work report will be a positive step forward in tackling a problem that has become institutionalised. The NUJ provided a dossier of evidence to the BBC's review of its policies and processes relating to bullying and harassment, a process headed by Dinah Rose QC. The request for confidential evidence by the NUJ resulted in a huge response from BBC journalists past and present.
"It revealed a shocking picture of widespread and entrenched bullying and harassment, alongside a sustained failure by BBC management to deal with the perpetrators. It is clear that whilst the problem is an entrenched one, it has worsened in the wake of the cuts taking place under DQF. "

The BBC said:

"It is clear from the report that Russell had concerns, and that there were a number of reasons, including workplace culture, which may have stopped him raising the issues more formally or more quickly. A number of managers tried to help Russell, but there were also aspects of the way his case was handled that were simply not good enough. We have issued a statement today in which we apologise unreservedly for this."

The BBC said it would be putting in place a number of measures:

  • A thorough review of all the support services provided to staff in times of stress or difficulty at work.
  • The introduction of a dedicated confidential helpline, run by an independent organisation, for any member of staff who has concerns about bullying or harassment issues and who does not feel able to raise them elsewhere.
  • A review of the BBC's contracted occupational health service, with a target to increase the proportion of staff who receive face to face counselling in future and a number of other improvements.
  • Further training for managers in how to recognise bullying and harassment, with a reminder they may sometimes need to take up cases independently and not rely on an individual raising a complaint.
  • A programme to improve awareness of mental health issues among all our managers.

Keith Murray, BBC NUJ, said:

"The NUJ's thoughts are firstly with Russell's family at such a terrible time. The NUJ has always wanted a truly independent inquiry into the situation regarding Russell's tragic passing, and the BBC's investigation wasn't independent at all. The BBC has a history of producing these sorts of reports and then not properly implementing them.
"This is why so many staff have such little faith. We shall wait and see how well the BBC implements its promises. We will of course be carefully watching the BBC and doing all we can to make sure this most tragic of situations is never repeated."

Tags: broadcasting, bbc, sexual harassment, bullying