LGBT Foundation has written to the BBC in response to a news feature which aired on World AIDS Day which encouraged viewers to use red ribbons to remember the lives lost to Covid-19.
BBC North West posted a video on Twitter on Tuesday (December 1) encouraging people to pay tribute to victims of COVID-19 by tying a red ribbon around a tree.
The feature, which also aired on the BBC's North West Tonight programme, received immediate backlash from people who said the campaign was 'disrespectful' and 'insensitive'.
The red ribbon is popularly used as the universal symbol of awareness and support for people living with HIV and viewers added it was 'inappropriate' to suggest the idea on World AIDS Day.
BBC North West later deleted the tweet and posted an apology saying it 'understands why some people found it insensitive on World AIDS Day’.
BBC added they are no longer mentioning the ribbons as part of the project and have deleted all social media posts referencing them.
Rob Cookson, the Deputy Chief Executive of Manchester-based LGBT Foundation has now written directly to the BBC to express its ‘concern and shock’ over the feature.
The letter was sent to Helen Thomas, the Director of BBC England, on Thursday (December 3) and has since been shared online.
“The action by BBC North West has caused a lot of anger and upset," the letter stated.
"It has deeply affected people living with and communities affected by HIV.
“I appreciate that you have publicly said sorry, but I do not feel this apology goes far enough. It fails to recognise the scale and depth of anger and concern this has created for so many people and communities.
“I am therefore calling upon BBC North West to take some actions to clearly demonstrate your commitment to people living with and communities affected by HIV.
“Firstly, to make a much fuller apology which recognises the levels of upset and distress this has caused. Secondly, to commit to greater news coverage of HIV throughout 2021."
Carl Austin-Behan, LGBTQ+ Advisor to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has also written to the BBC over the feature.
In his letter, which was also sent on Thursday, he said that the use of the red ribbon in the feature was 'in extremely poor taste'.
"Had you actually taken into account the meaning of the red ribbon?," Mr Austin-Behan wrote.
"If you had, then this is incredibly insensitive, and I am extremely disappointed.
"I did see a very poor apology once the tweet had been removed saying that you had been working closely with those who have lost loved ones to COVID.
"May I suggest that a stronger further apology is made. One that is heartfelt, genuine and sincere, which recognises the amount of hurt and distress this has caused to people living with and effected by HIV.
"I would also like to suggest that the BBC engages with various organisations and charities who can provide advice, knowledge and support around HIV to show your commitment to people living with and communities affected by HIV."
In response to the original Tree of Lives feature, a BBC spokesperson said: “We have apologised for the upset caused by the launch of this project on air and on social media.
“The timing on World Aids Day was wrong. We are working closely with families in the North West who have lost loved ones during the pandemic and it was never our intention to cause offence.”
A BBC spokesperson has confirmed to the M.E.N that they have received the LGBT Foundation's letter and will be reaching out to the charity directly.