Expected BBC exemption from equality scrutiny unacceptable
In response to media speculation that the BBC may not be among the number of public bodies designated by the British government under the Equality duty Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane said:
"It is our understanding that the British government's imminent announcement regarding public bodies to be designated under the Section 75 equality duty will not include the BBC. The apparent excuse will be that placing the BBC under equality scrutiny would interfere with the independence of the media.
"This is a completely at odds with the British government's responsibilities to advance the equality dimensions and mechanisms created under the Good Friday Agreement.
"In our view the British government has a responsibility to prioritise equality considerations regarding the BBC over and above any perceived concerns about interference with the independence of the media. The issue here is about ensuring that a public body like the BBC, which is a large-scale employer using public money complies in its policies and practices with all dimensions of equality legislation.
"Sinn Féin argued that the BBC, Translink, the British Secretary of State and other bodies to be designated. Commitments were subsequently given by the British government in the Joint Declaration to seriously consider these. These bodies are only the tip of the iceberg. Others like the Director of Public Prosecutions office, the Ministry of Defence and Housing Associations are also left out of equality scrutiny and compliance.
"If the BBC and other bodies are not designated it is our view that the British government would be acting at variance on a key commitment it made in the Good Friday Agreement and the Joint Declaration."