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Newsreader banned from wearing cross on air

Published: 04 Nov 2013 11:49 GMT+01:00

Siv Kristin Sællmann, who reads NRK's regional news for southern Norway, last month came on air several times wearing a discreet 1.4cm long gold cross, studded with tiny black diamonds.
 
Immediately, viewers began to call in with complaints, pushing Anders Sårheim, the regional editor, to instruct her not to wear the symbol in future. 
 
"What I don't like is that people out there can just call in and tell my boss what I should and I shouldn't wear," Sællmann told The Local. 
 
She claims that she never thought of the cross, which her husband bought her on a recent holiday in Dubai, as more than a piece of jewellery. 
 
"I didn't wear the cross because I wanted to be provocative," she said. "I am a Christian, but right now I see the cross everywhere. It's part of the catwalk. It's part of fashion.  It's not like only Christians wear the symbol. I didn't think that people would react." 
 
Sårheim told the Norwegian newspaper Vårt Land that he was simply following the channel's stated clothing policies. 
 
"NRK has a clear policy that news anchors should be dressed neutrally, and we encourage them to avoid the use of jewellery with religious and political significance," he said. 
 
Sællmann said that although Sårheim had not told her who had complained, she suspected the opposition came from humanist groups rather than Muslims. 
 
She stressed that she had never had a conflict with Sårheim about the issue, and would never deliberately wear clothes or jewellery likely to alienate viewers. 
 
"I don't want to have any conflict with my boss," she said. "I wouldn't like it if people that watched me read the news on TV considered me as being apart in some way. I want to be as neutral as possible." 
 
In 2006, the UK's BBC went through similar controversy after some of its management pushed the newsreader Fiona Bruce to stop wearing a cross while presenting the news. Bruce was eventually allowed to continue wearing the symbol. 

Richard Orange (richard.orange@thelocal.com)

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