The corporation has become the focus of complaints of bias from all sides of the political spectrum throughout the battle over Brexit. Last week newsreader Huw Edwards was accused of favouring Labour after “liking” a number of tweets that were critical of the Conservative Party. It came days after BBC News boss Fran Unsworth said they were a “lightning rod for political discontent”.
But it’s lower-profile members of staff who have borne the brunt of complaints while wearing ID lanyards around their necks out in public.
It is so concerned about the safety of the workforce, the broadcaster has been running a Wear It In, Don’t Wear It Out campaign, reminding them to keep ID card covered up outside.
Staff around the country, including at Broadcasting House in London and at Media City in Salford, get regular reminders of the need to adhere to the advice via in-house human resources clips that play out on screens around BBC buildings. In one video they have been warned some staff have been subject to derogatory remarks from angry viewers.
One staff member said that there is also an added fear that the lanyards could be stolen and used to access buildings.
He said: “Throughout the debate over Brexit the BBC has been accused of bias from supporters of every party.
“Very unfairly that’s made ordinary staff members targets and it’s made for some unpleasant scenes in the street. Thankfully there doesn’t seem to have been any physical attacks and it’s been verbal but it’s ridiculous it’s come to this. We are just trying to do our job.
“The high-profile stars accused of bias get a lot of abuse for it online – particularly social media – with the likes of Gary Lineker and last week Huw Edwards but it’s the rank and file that are targets in person.
“It’s also a worry that someone with a grudge or wanting to make a bigger point could snatch a pass and try and gain access to one of the buildings.
“Who knows what they would do and what threat they could pose.”
Earlier in the week Ms Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, vowed to preserve the BBC’s impartiality. She said: “In these febrile and politically polarised times it’s hardly surprising the BBC, which seeks to represent the nation, is a lightning rod for political discontent.
“Our audiences want us to be impartial. That means fighting for their interests, not taking sides, and being trusted.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “This is standard advice provided to staff at most large public organisations and hasn’t changed for years.”