Look East’s Sally Chidzoy takes BBC to employment tribunal

Sally Chidzoy. PHOTO: Matthew Usher.

Sally Chidzoy. PHOTO: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Archant

One of the BBC’s most high profile journalists in East Anglia alleges she was pursued by bosses at the corporation after raising concerns about her manager’s links to a charity funded by the Chinese government and interference by a Norfolk MP in a story.

BBC Look East journalist Sally Chidzoy has taken the broadcaster to an employment tribunal, which opened in Cambridge on Tuesday.

In a 55-page statement, Miss Chidzoy, who is still working for the BBC as home affairs correspondent for the East of England, makes a series of claims, including:

-That her manager was the press spokesperson for a Cambridge charity, funded by the Chinese government, which she was investigating

-North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb interfered with one of Miss Chidzoy’s stories on the then boss of the East of England Ambulance Trust Anthony Marsh

-BBC managers disciplined her after an email from Mr Lamb to the BBC about her story was leaked to a national newspaper

-She was described as a “Shih Tzu” by the BBC boss who investigated her

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-She was told by BBC bosses to hand over her phone when they suspected her of leaking the email Mr Lamb had sent. She accuses the bosses of false imprisonment when she refused.

She was cleared of leaking the Mr Lamb email to the press, but she was disciplined for forwarding on his email to BBC colleagues.

She said her concerns about what she had discovered regarding her manager’s Chinese government links were also dismissed, as was a grievance she raised.

The China link

Miss Chidzoy claims that, in August 2013, she was investigating a charity called the Centre for Business and Public Sector Ethics, which was receiving funding from the Chinese Government.

The charity was supporting a visit to Cambridge by the Chinese secret police.

But Miss Chidzoy says when she phoned the charity’s director for comment, Dr Rosamund Thomas, she was told their press spokesperson was a woman called Nikki O’Donnell.

Ms O’Donnell was a news editor at Look East and Miss Chidzoy’s line manager.

“I was very concerned about potential legal issues including conflict of interest, the BBC’s reputation and for the BBC’s legal obligation to remain politically independent,” she wrote in her statement to the tribunal.

She says she spoke to Ms O’Donnell about this, who told her she had declared her unpaid role at the charity as an interest to the BBC.

The BBC initially said they could not find it, but later said she did not need to declare one.

She said the BBC then paid the Centre for Business and Public Sector Ethics to facilitate a broadcast which BBC Look East did from Shanghai. That payment was approved by Mick Rawsthorne, head of regional and local programming.

According to Miss Chidzoy’s evidence to the tribunal, she was not correctly line managed after raising her concerns about the Chinese incident and she was eventually disciplined.

She claims Ms O’Donnell told her in one meeting that people did not like her and she needed retraining.

She alleged there was a ‘campaign’ from Ms O’Donnell to undermine her, which included collecting her communications and sending them to HR.

The tribunal continues.