The Poppy Appeal

Have you ever seen Huw Edwards wearing a pink ribbon?

Over the last couple of weeks, in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday today, plastic poppies have been ubiquitous thanks to The Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal. The Poppy Appeal is important for members of the armed forces and their colleagues, and their relatives. But it's odd to me that it's uniquely endorsed—above all other charities—by schools, the media and, essentially, everybody else.

So ubiquitous is the poppy expected to be that last year a broadcaster actually received complaints because a newsreader chose not to wear one while presenting the news.

(...and in fact that news article pretty much supplants this in its entirety. Never mind.)

October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month; December 1st is World Aids Day. I haven't spotted a single pink ribbon during any TV programme I've watched over the last month-and-a-half; I don't expect to see any red ribbons on December 1st. It's quite likely that magazine programmes such as This Morning will have mentioned Breast Cancer Awareness Month and will mention World Aids Day, but I doubt even their presenters will wear a ribbon as a matter of course. Newsreaders, sport presenters, TV chefs and politicians almost certainly won't.

When I was in primary school (roughly ages eight to eleven), each November children would be enlisted to sell poppies—for charity, mind you—to the other children. Not once was I offered a breast cancer awareness ribbon, or an Aids awareness ribbon (that I can remember, anyway).

This is almost certainly at the detriment of other, equally- or arguably more-worthy, charities: donating a sum of money to one charity almost inevitably reduces the likelihood that the same person will donate to another charity later—it's simple budgeting.

I can understand the government having an extraordinary interest in the Poppy Appeal: it's largely they who're responsible for engaging the armed forces in conflicts (by “responsible” I don't mean “to blame”; I mean it's they who take the decision), but the media in general and especially schools—where children who don't quite understand what's going on are (or were when I was there) essentially compelled to donate to a particular charity—have no such vested interest.

If broadcasters want to maintain their illusion of impartiality, they need to either endorse all charities and awareness events, or none. At this point I shall lazily allude to a reductio ad absurdum involving Talk Like a Pirate Day, rather than properly constructing one.

Of course individuals should be encouraged to donate to charities and to wear symbols like the poppy, but it's not right that the national media should focus so exclusively on just one charity. Perhaps public figures should instead wear a badge reading “Donate to a charity!”.