When we wish understand how seriously society judges any incident, a good starting point is the sanctions placed upon the perpetrator. This idea of action and consequences runs through any legal system. It is something we grow up with, both in the home and at school. It governs what is found as acceptable behavior. We understand the difference between our parents “grounding” us for a week and or a month, and rightly would expect these two punishments to be incurred for vastly different offenses. We rightly expect society to ensure the punishment fits the crime. We would expect accidentally braking a test tube or a glass at school to be punished roughly the same (as they are both accidents of carelessness) perhaps with detention. We would expect willfully braking a window to incur a much more serious reprisal (as it is a deliberate act) for example suspension or possibly being expelled from the school. These are things we expect children to understand from the age of six or seven. Then we expect these children to bring these principles into the adult world and the workplace.
Given that we all understand this, what conclusions can we draw from two “incidents” that occurred, at roughly the same time involving female presenters at BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire in 2006/7.
There are two incidents around that time.
Case A resulted in a
A swift and rigorous investigation involving the Director General
The Perpetrator received a lengthy suspension.
The Perpetrator being named and shamed.
The BBC changing protocols.
The BBC was fined £115,000
Weeks of national headlines and saturation coverage.
The presenter herself stating “Everything I’d worked for for 20 years, my reputation was in tatters.”
Case B resulted in
A botched inquiry at local level.
The perpetrator continuing to work for the BBC.
The perpetrator had there identity concealed.
The BBC defending there processes.
The media coverage has been scant.
The Perpetrator is rumored to have said “there was no complaint about me”
There is no doubt the sanctions placed on Case A far outweigh those of Case B, therefore society sees Case A as more serious. We would then expect the effects on the victim to more serious in Case A than Case B would we not ? They are as follows.
In one of these cases a show was recorded and then broadcast as “live” This meant members of the public sent text messages and phoned the studio to enter contests they had no chance of winning, because a member of the production staff had perviously “won” the contest in a recorded phone call. Doubtless this caused a small cost to the people who entered, disappointment at not winning and perhaps some embarrassment when the truth came to light.
In the other case a presenter made sexual advances to a reporter. The reporter rebuffed these advances and the presenter continued with knowingly unwanted advances. The presenter told the reporter they should be “flattered” by the attention. It was common knowledge in the studio this was happening. The reporter complained to there superior. The reporter received a text message from Cath Hearne, BBC West Midlands’ head of programs, intended for the person conducting the investigation. This text apparently told the investigator not to contact the victim. Voice messages were played to the staff describing the victim as “flakey” or a “looser”. The victim suffered continued harassment, leading to them having to take time off work. The victim asked to be moved to a different location, and were told this would not be possible as they were not working “normal hours” despite the BBC knowing the reduced hours were a direct result of the sexual harassment they were suffering. The reporter eventually committed suicide.
Now, just to be clear on this, there are laws about this type of workplace harassment. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 any form of bullying/harassment must be treated as any other hazard. A risk assessment must be carried out under the guidelines set out in the Management of Health and Safety at work regulations 1999. There must be suitable and sufficient control measures put in place, these can include (but are not limited to) replacing the dangerous with the non dangerous/less dangerous, developing a coherent overall prevention strategy, which covers organisation of the work, working conditions and social relationships and the influencing factors and giving appropriate instructions to all employees.
These measures are Absolute Duties of Care, the Employer Must do these things, legally they have no choice. It would seam the BBC totally disregarded its duty of care in Case B.
In Case A Liz Kershaw had her name and face splashed across the media for what amounts to a scam that the producer, and probably people above her connived, consented and condoned.
While at the same time, in the same studios, a as yet unnamed female presenter who still works for the BBC and apparently has a high profile, continues to go unpunished to driving a person to there death.
I believe the punishment does not fit the crime. I believe one of the main reasons a experienced reporter could not make his voice heard or have the situation rectified is because he was a MAN. A person that should be “flattered” by the attention of a female. If we go back to my first point. When we wish understand how seriously society judges any incident, a good starting point is the sanctions placed upon the perpetrator. It would seam that society is perfectly happy to have women harass, bully, victimize men by whatever means they choose. I would say to all those that campaign for sexual equality, the starting point should be the one issue that has been left untouched. Equality in the consequences of actions !
One final question, apart from Liz Kershaw, who was the high profile female presenter at BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire in 2006/7 that continues to work at the BBC ?
Dedicated to Russell Joslin, and every other victim of abuse.