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Inquiry reveals allegations of bullying and sexual harassment at the BBC stretching years

The BBC has pledged an overhaul of its policies after in inquiry revealed serious allegations of workplace bullying and sexual harassment at the organisation over that last seven years.

Report: The inquiry found widespread allegations of bullying

The Respect At Work review, overseen by barrister Dinah Rose, considered testimony from almost 1,000 members of staff at the BBC and trade unions. The NUJ welcomed the findings, saying they backed a union investigation into the problem.

"It is quite clear that bullying has become an institutionalised problem at the BBC, one that has taken hold over many years," said NUJ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet. "The report's findings underline the fear factor that exists, particularly for those staff on freelance and short-term contracts, who know that speaking out and rocking the boat could damage their career prospects.

"Many see that bullies have been allowed to get away with shocking behaviour right under the noses of senior management, so have no faith that complaining will bring any redress."

The inquiry found 37 cases of alleged sexual harassment and "much more prominent" allegations about bullying. It said: "Throughout our conversations we heard a strong undercurrent of fear; fear of speaking out, fear of reprisal, fear of losing your job, being made redundant, fear of becoming a victim, fear of getting a reputation as a troublemaker and not getting promoted if an employee, or further work if a freelancer, supplier or contractor."

BBC HR director Lucy Adams said in response to the report: "What needs to be fixed is that we have let bullying behaviour go unchallenged and some of our people have had unpleasant experiences as a result. This shouldn’t happen in any well-run organisation. It mustn’t happen at the BBC.

"Our audiences expect more of us and we expect more of ourselves as a result. No matter how junior or senior, no matter how short or long their time at the BBC, regardless of whether they are a member of staff, a freelancer or a contractor, they have a right to be treated with respect. No-one in a position of authority or power is 'untouchable'."

BBC director general Tony Hall said he wanted a "zero tolerance of bullying" in his response to the findings and the BBC announced it will introduce a confidential helpline for staff, as well as a reform of bullying and harassment policies.

Stanistreet added that the NUJ would monitor the changes but was still awaiting the results of investigations: "That the BBC is now taking action and getting a grip of what is a toxic problem can only be a good thing. It is positive news that investigations will be carried out by an independent panel in future, although we remain concerned about how efficiently this can be delivered by an in-house approach. We will work with the BBC to monitor and review all the changes – it's vital that this is a genuine fresh start, one that marks the dismantling of a culture that has allowed bullying and harassment to take hold.

"As a result of our work there are several investigations into ongoing cases – the outcomes of those investigations and the implementation of the changes announced today will demonstrate how seriously the BBC and the management board is about wiping out bullying behaviour at the corporation."

The review was set up after the Jimmy Savile scandal revelations last year, initially to examine sexual harassment policies but the scope widened as allegations of other forms of inappropriate behaviour became apparent.

The corporation said it would remove gagging clauses to enable staff to speak out more easily. The BBC reportedly put restrictions on director general Tony Hall last month after he took up the role, preventing him from making any public criticism.

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