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BBC says presenters may wear white poppies on air

Packs of white poppies

BBC says presenters may wear white poppies on air

In an apparent shift in position, the BBC has said that their staff may wear a remembrance poppy "of any colour" in the run-up to Remembrance Day. 

The statement was welcomed by the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), who produce white poppies to represent remembrance for all victims of war, a commitment to peace and a rejection of militarism.

A BBC spokesperson is quoted making the comment in today’s Observer, having been questioned about recent controversies concerning BBC staff endorsing political positions. The new position will allow red, white, black or purple poppies. 

The BBC spokesperson, quoted in an Observer article by journalist Vanessa Thorpe, says, Wearing poppies is an act of remembrance, and remembrance poppies can be of many colours. But we have no objection to poppies of any colour provided they embrace the simple act of remembrance and do not carry a political or campaigning or commercial message.”

In response, the PPU emphasised that white poppies are a symbol of remembrance, for all victims of war, both civilian and military, of all nationalities. They also represent peace and a rejection of militarism.

The PPU insisted that the BBC spokesperson’s comment about “political or campaigning” messages could apply to white, red or other poppies and should not be used as an excuse for the BBC to backtrack on the commitment to allowing white poppies.

Symon Hill, Peace Pledge Union Campaigns Manger, said:

We are very pleased to see the BBC saying that their staff may wear remembrance poppies of any colour. This is long overdue. White poppies are sometimes misrepresented as anti-remembrance. This is nonsense. They are a symbol of remembrance, for all victims of war.

White poppies and red poppies are as political as each other. According to the British Legion, red poppies represent remembrance for UK and allied military and ‘support for the armed forces’. White poppies represent remembrance for all victims of war and a commitment to peace. If one of these messages is political, so is the other.”

White poppies can be bought online or at a number of outlets around the UK. Money raised through white poppy sales goes towards promoting nonviolent approaches to conflict and producing educational materials. Many white poppy wearers also donate to charities supporting veterans or other victims of war.

The Peace Pledge Union will hold an Alternative Remembrance Sunday Ceremony at 12.00 noon on Sunday 8th November. Owing to the Covid pandemic, it will this year be online. Contributors will include Yemeni-Scouse poet Amina Atiq and Scottish singer and pacifist activist Penny Stone.