Chris Packham 'ALLOWED to praise hunt saboteurs' because of 'loophole'

BBC star Chris Packham ‘is ALLOWED to praise anti-hunt saboteurs’ because of ‘loophole’ which ‘frees him from impartiality rules’ – after tweeting his support for activists who disrupted Ian Botham’s grouse shooting party

  • Mr Packham said to not be bound by corporation’s strict rules around fairness
  • This is because the wildlife presenter doesn’t work for the BBC exclusively
  • Broadcaster has now been accused of ‘gaslighting’ by the Countryside Alliance

BBC star Chris Packham is allowed to praise anti-hunt saboteurs because of a loophole which frees him from impartiality rules, it has been claimed.

The wildlife presenter recently tweeted his support for activists who disrupted a grouse shooting party attended by former England cricketer Ian Botham.

While the corporation has strict rules around fairness for those working in news and current affairs, Mr Packham is not bound by them, according to the Telegraph.

This is because he does not work for the BBC exclusively and is only contracted to work on science and natural history projects.

Social media guidelines state that posts by ‘programme makers, editorial staff, reporters or presenters primarily associated with the BBC … have the potential to compromise the BBC’s impartiality and to damage its reputation.’

They add that those working in news ‘have a particular responsibility to avoid damaging the BBC’s impartiality’.

Mr Packham’s tweet last month sparked outrage among the Countryside Alliance, which campaigns for fieldsports including hunting and shooting, with members launching a petition, calling for the BBC to change its rules so he is covered.

The broadcaster was accused of ‘gaslighting’ in the petition, which has since been signed by more than 3,000 people.

BBC star Chris Packham is allowed to praise anti-hunt saboteurs because of a loophole which frees him from impartiality rules, it has been claimed

The petition states: ‘In view of Chris Packham’s public support of the criminal activities by saboteurs, and the need to ensure the impartiality of all those employed by the BBC irrespective of their employment contract, the Corporation needs to extend its existing rules to all its presenters. 

‘Every presenter should be governed by clear rules regardless of their employment status. 

‘We therefore need your help in making it clear to Tim Davie that the BBC must either tell Chris Packham to follow its impartiality rules or else stop employing him.’ 

The row revolved around a group of black-clad demonstrators called the Hunt Saboteurs Association descending on Snailsden Moor, near Penistone in the Peak District when Lord Botham and his hunting party were preparing to go shooting on August 16.

‘Beefy’ was part of the legal shoot that was ultimately abandoned after saboteurs disrupted the party, sitting down in front of the former all-rounder’s 4×4 as part of a series of actions to disrupt the start of the season.

Mr Packham described the efforts to disrupt the shoot as ‘top work’ on Twitter, before adding: ‘Oh dear, what a shame, next…’

Adrian Blackmore, Director of the Campaign for Shooting at the Countryside Alliance said: ‘Clearly the status quo is not fit for purpose. Chris Packham is among one of the most recognisable presenters at the BBC. 

‘When people see Mr Packham, they associate him with the BBC, and when he is discussed in the wider media, he is commonly referred to as a BBC presenter. 

‘Suggesting he is not to those that rightly say otherwise, is a blatant example of gaslighting. The public does not differentiate between BBC presenters on the basis of their contracts. 

‘It’s time Tim Davie put his words into action and extended impartiality rules to all BBC presenters. Failure to comply should simply result in not renewing future contracts. 

‘Doing so will show genuine commitment to protecting the BBC’s standing and integrity among licence fee payers.’ 

Former England cricket star Ian Botham, pictured left, was angered when a planned afternoon shooting grouse on Snailsden Moor in the Peak District on August 16

It is the latest impartiality row involving the BBC after it was claimed bosses ordered a senior journalist to apologise to Gary Lineker for blasting the Match Of The Day host’s anti-Government tweets.

One insider claimed that the editor would get lots of support because ‘Lineker’s social media stuff is deeply irritating to many BBC journalists’.

The row came as the ex-England striker tweeted ‘As a politician how could you ever, under any circumstances, bring yourself to vote for pumping sewage into our seas? Unfathomable!’

In response, foreign news editor Neil Henderson asked the star if his contract allowed him to make such comments. 

Lineker, the BBC’s best-paid presenter, who last year earned more than £1.35million there, pointed out that because he did not work in news and current affairs he could say such things. 

Mr Henderson replied: ‘Does not our duty of impartiality apply across the BBC?’

He added afterwards: ‘The BBC lives or dies by its impartiality. If you can’t abide it, get off it.’

But on Tuesday, apparently under pressure, Mr Henderson said: ‘I’d like to apologise for earlier tweets (now deleted) responding to Gary Lineker. I should have shown more consideration to a BBC colleague – as per the BBC’s social media guidelines.’

The BBC has been approached for comment on its position regarding Mr Packham and impartiality.

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