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Poppies and presenters

David Jordan David Jordan | 13:14 UK time, Friday, 10 November 2006

Jon Snow of Channel Four News has said on his blog that he has chosen not to wear a poppy on air, though he does wear one in his personal life. His view is that any symbol is a distraction. He's discovered, or perhaps he already knew, that it is a controversial viewpoint.

poppies.jpgAs far as the BBC is concerned, presenters or reporters appearing on television can wear poppies if they want to. There is no rule that tells them they must do so. It is a matter of individual choice. The BBC does give some guidance on when to wear them, so that we can have some sort of uniformity on screen, though there is some flexibility in that too. We suggest starting to wear poppies a couple of weeks before Remembrance Sunday. That's roughly when the Royal British Legion officially starts selling them. This year they started to do so on Saturday 28 October.

Buying and wearing poppies is an entirely voluntary act in society, and we don't believe it should be any different for newsreaders or presenters. There are some places in the UK - Northern Ireland, for example - where wearing a poppy has been a controversial thing to do. It may be difficult for some foreign correspondents. And it may be inappropriate for some activities. So it wouldn't be right for us to issue an all-encompassing directive to all of our reporters and presenters to wear poppies. People have different views about it and find themselves in different situations at home and abroad.

And there is no guarantee that every presenter or reporter who wants to wear one in this period will always be seen doing so. Some TV is made a long time before it is shown and often the participants don't know when the programme will be transmitted. Nor is there a guarantee that presenters won't wear them earlier than suggested . Politicians seem to acquire poppies very early, so on some news and current affairs programmes you may find the presenter doing so too.

I have been asked whether presenters might be pressured by editors to wear poppies before they go on air. This shouldn't happen. But as the controversy sparked by Jon Snow has shown, there is clearly the potential that not wearing one might cause some controversy. In my experience editors and producers usually point this out to presenters and make it clear they might have to answer complaints if they don't wear one. But that's not the same as applying pressure - that's simply a matter of pointing out the consequences of their actions


  • 1.
  • At 02:02 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Phill Mayhew wrote:

I'm not so sure it should be voluntary for BBC presenters. There are standards to maintain and if some people misunderstand the meaning of the poppy then that's their problem. Wearing poppies is an individual and collective act of rememberance and a positive part of our culture which the BBC should continue to support.

It's a pity John Snow has created a controvery where there wasn't one before. I'm sure he feels it's right to wear a poppy at this time of year so his reaction seems a little emotional.

  • 2.
  • At 02:04 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Frank Grimes wrote:

Well said David - it's refreshing to hear such an honest account of policy from someone within the BBC. If the policy is outloined as you say it should be, then I think the BBC has gone it absolutely right.

It's just a shame that more presenters and reporters aren't brave enough to face down the 'poppy fascism' as highlighted by Jon Snow.

  • 3.
  • At 02:11 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Richard Morris wrote:

There may not be editorial pressure but there certainly is peer pressure. The fact that no newsreader/presenter is able to resist is a sorry commentary on their independence of mind and their suitability for the job.

  • 4.
  • At 02:33 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

"...with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes."

"As far as the BBC is concerned, presenters or reporters appearing on television can wear poppies if they want to." I am amazed. Not at the BBC but at the EU for having overlooked this aspect of life in Europe and not having a regulation in place specifically dealing with it. Once it is brought to their attention, I'm certain a committee will immediately be formed in Brussels to determine when, where, and in what manner a representative of a government (taxpayer) supported broadcaster can wear symbols which might be construed by some as having religious or political significance. I am equally certain, BBC will broadcast a detailed report about it. Do you suppose Madonna sports poppies in the presence of her new ward? Would it be culturally correct? Would it warp the child for life? BBC will surely spare no expense or effort to obtain the answers for us, their lucky audience. Perhaps afterwards, she will think better of it and stick to rings and bells.

  • 5.
  • At 02:54 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Kendrick Curtis wrote:

Well, it depends how it's pointed out, surely? "Pointing it out" sounds like it could be a pretty good way ostracizing the people who don't do it.

  • 6.
  • At 04:31 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Rupert RG wrote:

Remembrance Day is something special - it is part of the fabric of our nation to remember and honour the dead of our wars. It is right that we do so, and do so publicly. They died for our freedoms.

This also means that they died for our freedom not to wear a poppy or to wear a white poppy, however odd and ill-considered the rest of us might think.

But what of other good causes that are highlighted by the wearing of emblems? Are there any BBC guidelines covering those? May presenters declare allegiance or sympathy to a charitable cause by wearing a ribbon or wristband on screen, effectively advertising the cause? Are there limits on what can or cannot be worn? If there are, what are they?

  • 7.
  • At 05:19 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Brendan wrote:

news reporters have no obligation to wear the poppy, and nobody should be pressured into wearing the poppy. the fact that i'm writing this shows that we have become so anxious to maintain a balance between our views and societal norms, that we have forgotten to allow for emotion and the liquid state of our thoughts. the reaction to Snows choice is over the top. one should maintain respect for the reasons for the poppy, but also to respect choice.

  • 8.
  • At 05:31 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • James wrote:

Phill Mayhew, what John Snow did - and his reasoning for it aren't controversial at all.

Anyone that's actually read his blog and not relied on the media spin would understand this.

  • 9.
  • At 05:33 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Themos Tsikas wrote:

If ever a politician with a poppy comes into a BBC interview, would you mind awfully asking them a simple question:

What are they doing to ensure that the British Legion doesn't have to go begging every year and, since they obviously think that it's such a good cause, why has no government since WW1 sought to finance the needs of that charity?

  • 10.
  • At 05:34 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • David Laturner wrote:

I stopped wearing a poppy following the Falklands War, when the Remembrance events stopped feeling like genuine remembrance of the dead, and started feeling more like a celebration of victory and glorification of war.

  • 11.
  • At 05:39 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Jane O'Mahoney wrote:

I think Jon Snow is quite right. People have taken to wearing their poppies about three week before the 11th as if to prove they're more caring than the rest of us. I dislike cheap emotive gestures of any variety. Poppy-wearing is no different.

  • 12.
  • At 06:00 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

Wicked Witch of the West: "And now, my beauties, something with poison in it. Poppies... Poppies. Poppies will put them to sleep. Sleep. Now they'll sleep!"

I know they're putting me to sleep. I completely forgot about Iraq, global warming, the midterm elections, and nuclear proliferation. All I could think about was poppies... poppies.

"Todo, I've (got) a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

  • 13.
  • At 06:38 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

No one should be forced to take part in a solemn national act of remembrance - and a celebration of hard won freedom - by wearing a poppy. But those who wilfully refuse to do so demonstrate their lack of attachment to the community in which they live - and their unsuitability for high visibility public posts.

  • 14.
  • At 06:43 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • jane clarke wrote:

Wearing a poppy is not a sign of collective rememberance - rather it is a sign that you have made a domation to the British Legion. I may choose not to support the work of the British Legion (by buying or wearing a poppy)but I can still be part of the act of rememberance.

  • 15.
  • At 07:34 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Cash wrote:

Is anyone else out there wondering what kind of person has so little to do with their time, that they will actively complain to the BBC about someone not wearing a piece of paper which is meant to indicate remembrance?

Obviously it's not at all possible to remember the dead without a red piece of paper.

Though the cost of remembrance is very reasonable. Only costs £1 a year, that sure beats taking the time out to spend a bit of meaningful quiet time actually remembering the sacrifice people made.

  • 16.
  • At 07:38 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Robert Newton wrote:

If it wasn't for the brave men and women who the act of rememberance is for, there would be no BBC, it would be the Deutsche Broadcasting Corporation, run by Goebbels, and the presenters would only be able to broadcast the properganda of the government - much as Blair probably wishes they would anyway.

  • 17.
  • At 07:43 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Kevin Clarke wrote:

I don't wear a poppy, however, i feel it shouldn't be an issue. I am an atheist and have no problems with any news presenters wearing a crucifix, or a veil (dare I say it?) whilst presenting the news. If the present the news well, I don't see how they present themselves should really matter.

  • 18.
  • At 09:00 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • jazz wrote:


I take it this policy has changed from 1995 when a BBC NI presenter made a considered descision not to wear the poppy?

She merely observed that whatever the poppy is meant to represent it has become a loaded and divisive symbol in Northern Ireland and she would rather do her job without wearing symbols of any sort. Indeed she said if she was asked to wear a shamrock on St Patrick's day she'd give that a pass as well.

The result? She was monstered by the unionist press and politicians. The beeb shamefully took fright, hung her out to dry and briefed that if she was on the rota to read the news she'd be wearing a poppy. Then they went the extra step to stipulate that everyone on screen in the 10 days leading up to Nov 11 would also have to wear a poppy.

By coincidence the same presenter was on TV tonight. She was wearing a poppy.

  • 19.
  • At 09:35 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Syed Hasan Turab wrote:

First time in Arab world & Holy city world observed Gay Pride, this is a good start from peace point of view at least Isriel & rest of the Arab world will be united against this new problem in the region. A big challange & alarming sitution for faith of Ibrahim i.e Muslims, Christians & Jewish. May God bring peace,unity & courage to resolve this imported issue of pride.

  • 20.
  • At 11:05 PM on 10 Nov 2006,
  • Amanda Price wrote:

As Brit currently living in America, I am always impressed at the support that the population here shows their troops. They manage to seperate out the actions and decisions of their government from the situation their troops find themselves in dealing with a difficult situation on the ground daily. Virtually everyone I know here personally knows a soldier who has been wounded or killed in Iraq - the levels of US casulaties from this area are that high. Every car carries a "Support our troops" sticker and troops passing throgh the airports are cheered and hugged. This is the same population who cheered when Donald Rumsfeld was deposed on Wednesday. British troops have already commented that they do not feel the same level of support from the British public. In my opinion, not wanting to wear a poppy as it might offend some people is yet another way of showing our troops past and present that we don't really care about them. Our troops are facing death, injury and an impossible situation daily - can we not face someone and explain why we chose to wear a paper poppy?

Living in the States, I ask my family to send me poppies every year. Americans ask me what they are for and when I explain, they instantly ask where they can get one too and think it is an excellent idea.

  • 21.
  • At 01:25 AM on 11 Nov 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

People who have been through wars and have lost fathers,mothers, sons , daughters,other relatives and friends because of those wars will look in disgust at those who make the wearing of a poppy, anywhere and at any time, a matter for dissension
Frankly, I do not understand how anyone with intelligence and feelings can fail to understand the deep-seated grief left by the loss of the millions of young lives that could have been.

  • 22.
  • At 11:39 AM on 11 Nov 2006,
  • Dave Parker wrote:

Bravo Jon! It's his choice to wear one of the things in his private life. Personally I wouldn't be seen dead sporting such a vacuous celebration of a senseless war. But I don't share his taste in socks either.

  • 23.
  • At 01:28 PM on 11 Nov 2006,
  • Dave Parker wrote:

"... disgust at those who make the wearing of a poppy, anywhere and at any time, a matter for dissension"

45 million Europeans died in 1939-45 so that people wouldn't have to wear badges, except then it was yellow stars and pink triangles.

Choosing not to wear a poppy is a better tribute to their sacrifice than questioning that right.

  • 24.
  • At 02:16 AM on 12 Nov 2006,
  • Gareth Powley wrote:

May I ask Dave Parker which war he is reffering to? Incase he has forgotten the poppy as a symbol, though orignally from the First World War, remembers all those who died in active service for this country. Does he consider peacekeeping missions in which many of our troops died sensless? Nor do it in any way celebrate war, it reminds us of its pointless waste of life. Futhermore, I am assuming here you were reffering to the First World War, but I ask Dave if he feels we should just have let Germany carry on its aggression unchecked? Yes the war was badly fought and yes we helped build the tension that led to the war but if he was British Prime Minister in 1914 I doubt very much he would have done anything differently. Its easy to be critical with hindsight.

Oh and by the way, I agree with John Snow, no one should be forced to wear a poppy, or even feel pressurised to but I feel stongly that you should know what a poppy stands for and you should learn more about WW1 than you gleaned from Blackadder before you dismiss it.

  • 25.
  • At 09:30 AM on 12 Nov 2006,
  • Dudley wrote:

As Jon Snow pointed out:

"I am begged to wear an Aids Ribbon, a breast cancer ribbon, a Marie Curie flower... You name it, from the Red Cross to the RNIB, they send me stuff to wear to raise awareness, and I don't. And in those terms, and those terms alone, I do not and will not wear a poppy."

Are BBC presenters allowed to wear (on air) any and all symbols associated with things they support?

  • 26.
  • At 10:19 AM on 12 Nov 2006,
  • Donald Robertson wrote:

The poppy symbolises different things to different people. Nobody should feel coerced to wear one.

We all appreciate the role of British soldiers in the world wars but does everyone feel the same way about celebrating and financially supporting those who served in more controversial settings such as Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, or Iraq? Doesn't the money from poppies support these soldiers as well?

  • 27.
  • At 12:12 PM on 12 Nov 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

Re 14 (Dave Parker)

It is not a celebration of war. It is commemoration of millions - yes millions - of lost loved ones.

All wars are senseless because no one side with any sense would provoke war.

I will not comment on the relevance of a taste in socks in this context.

  • 28.
  • At 02:14 PM on 12 Nov 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

A very sensible and interesting article, David.

However, there is one point which you didn't mention. I heard on BBC London radio that many TV presenters are simply handed their poppies by the production staff. Is that true? If so, I find that more shocking than anything else that may have caused controversy here. Surely, if TV presenters wear a poppy, they should have bought the poppy for themselves? To wear a poppy that they didn't personally contribute to seems deeply hypocritical.

Could you clarify this please?

  • 29.
  • At 05:44 PM on 12 Nov 2006,
  • Jim Cathcart wrote:

The wearing of the poppy is not a celebration of war but a symbol of gratitude to those who fought so the rest of us wont have to. Gratitude that is owed by every one of us irrespective of political or religious views.

  • 30.
  • At 07:33 PM on 12 Nov 2006,
  • Nicky wrote:

I approve of the poppy as a symbol and I think it's fair to donate to the British Legion, to give some support to soldiers who have been injured or traumatised as a result of war. I wear a poppy every year. However, that is MY choice and I see absolutely no reason why anyone should be forced to wear one if they don't want to. This is supposedly a country where we have freedom of choice, at least thus far, and if people wish to exercise that freedom by not wearing a poppy then of COURSE they are entitled so to do.

I think that Jon Snow was absolutely right: there is definitely a strong peer-pressure to conform, demonstrated by the fact that although presenters do not generally wear other symbols, they almost invariably wear poppies. While 'poppy fascism' is a bit of a strong term, I can see where he's coming from - and although I understand why people feel strongly about this, its important to remember that just because someone doesn't wear a poppy it doesn't mean they don't appreciate the sacrifices that were made for them. And if they actually don't appreciate them, well, that's entirely up to them.

  • 31.
  • At 08:56 AM on 13 Nov 2006,
  • Susan Mary Robertson wrote:

Karl Marx said that religion is the opium of the masses. Opium is made from poppy seeds. Why do the masses need opium?
Also, workers of the world unite!

  • 32.
  • At 01:46 PM on 13 Nov 2006,
  • Phill Mayhew wrote:

Jon Snow is not anyone. He is a C4 news presenter. For news presenters there are standards to maintain. Broadcasting organisations need to make a statement of appreciation for those who gave everything. It's not too much to ask the on-screen talent to wear a poppy is it?

A news presenter may choose not to wear a tie, nor a jacket. He may prefer a tee shirt with a sexually inuendo on it. I'm sure the editor would have something to say about that ! There always standards, it's just a matter of where you draw the line.

  • 33.
  • At 02:09 AM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • jack maclean wrote:

Methinks that along with the future absenting of Fiona's(with her already inverted)cross from BBC flagship news, Channel4 too, has had to offer up it's sacrifice in a vain attempt to forestall the appearance of a hijab on our multi cultural screens.(The veil might follow,if only fleeting at first -(it's the symbolism,stupid!)). And ironically, such symbols of submission could pave the way for the return of those of suffering.

  • 34.
  • At 11:08 AM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • gregor aitken wrote:

Surely the best way to show our gratitude for our fallen in past wars is to make sure we give no more lives to wars.

i am all for jon snow not wearing a poppy, at times i think they are an apologia to our own conscience.

Lets make sure we dont start more wars and we will not need to send troops to their deaths.

  • 35.
  • At 01:20 PM on 14 Nov 2006,
  • Andy N wrote:

Whether to wear a poppy or not is up to the individual. I choose to do so as a mark of respect to those who died defending our freedoms. As to whether newsreaders should wear them its up to them.

That said, its one of the best forms of advertising as it prompts me and my colleagues to go and buy a poppy

  • 36.
  • At 01:22 PM on 15 Nov 2006,
  • Julia wrote:

I would have thought that anyone wearing a poppy does so to remember and honour our war dead, and that to me doesn't sound like a part-time occupation...

I didn't wear a poppy this year, partly because I was travelling around and knew it would disappear five minutes after being worn.

I remember the war dead. I remember them constantly, in my own way. It is insulting to assume that by not wearing one I am in some way lacking respect.

Wearing a poppy is too easy for some people - I suspect if you asked most people what it was for they'd give no answer deeper than 'people who died in 'the' war'. Which war? Why was it fought? Was there a point to it? These are questions most people cannot answer, so to me their 'remembrance' is more a remembrance to look compassionate rather than a genuine sentiment.

Only people who understand what a poppy truly symbolises should wear one. It should mean less 'I remember' and more 'I understand'. The idea that forcing people to conform to an idea of 'respect' goes totally against the principles these people died for. The irony is unbelievable.

Long after the poppies have been thrown away or swept up, I will still remember, and respect those who died - no matter whether their deaths were noble or in vain. Grief is often personal and very, very private. Please respect that.

  • 38.
  • At 08:04 PM on 26 Mar 2007,
  • Jane O'Mahoney wrote:

By the way, I also get sick of hearing about the 'sacrifice' that was made by the dead of both world wars.

I don't intend to disrespect the dead at all, and I believe that the second world war, at least, was worth fighting, but I don't like words to be twisted to ennoble those who were killed.

My dad didn't want to go to war. If he could have, he would have stayed at home with his family. Those young men didn't make sacrifices, they had no choice: they were sacrificed.

  • 39.
  • At 05:08 PM on 27 Mar 2007,
  • paul wrote:

I am all for wearing the poppy, but maybe Jon is right, maybe it should be worn in private time, and not in working paying time. Not for p.c. reasons, but because maybe there is a time and a place. I will always wear my poppy with pride.
I am in dept too those who died and fought for my liberty, and will always wear my poppy with pride in my time and not in a time fit for my boss.

  • 40.
  • At 09:51 AM on 11 Nov 2007,
  • James anthony barr wrote:

Am I the only person in Britain who sees the truth about war? Eveyone talks of `our` soldiers as fighting for our freedom. Absolute nonsense.The vast majority join the forces as a career and NOT with the philosophy of fighting for our freedom. Then, they must do as they are told. How was our freedom at risk because of Sadaam Hussein? Is Afghanistan a threat to our freedom? How many people even knew of the Falklands before our Prime Minister decided it was a threat to our freedom? Soldiers, sailors and airmen are ordinary people doing as they are told and are NOT a collective bunch of heroes fighting for our freedom. And before all the outraged right start screaming from the safety of their arm chairs, I served for eight years and now have a career in logistics.

  • 41.
  • At 12:12 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Max Sinclair wrote:

The Falklands campaign was vital to the large number of British Citizens who live there.They were going to be removed from their homes by the primitive Argentinians!

  • 42.
  • At 01:12 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Tim wrote:

Reply to post:
Firstly; I also served, but with a great deal more valour than yourself I'd bet.

Secondly; The fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al Queda in Iraq has everything to with our freedom, against those who are planning to bomb us into accepting a Sharia Britain.

  • 43.
  • At 01:40 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • bruce gow wrote:

A bit late to join the discussion over whether it is right for presenters to wear or not to wear the poppy,but I think that although the poppy is a symbol its purpose today is to fund an organisation that supports ex-servicemen and women and to a great extent serving members. This should be a matter for state funding but isn't.
More important for the BBC is to consider we ex-pats whose connections with home are supplied by them,and when the service of remembrance from Helmand in Afghanistan was cut short for adverts on BBC world just before 11am their time they failed a lot of their overseas viewers.

  • 44.
  • At 01:48 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Adrian Peirson wrote:

Not buying a poppy does not of course mean that the non wearer does not care, but it does mean the British legion have not gained a Pound.

It's perfectly possible to be against war and support those affected by it.

I did not want the War with Iraq.

An Organisation like the Legion should not need to exist, but, despite us being the fourth largest economy, sadly it does.

The Legion will Always have my support at this time of year.

Our Freedoms come not from Politicians but from the Blood and sacrifice of Soldiers.

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