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New BBC boss grilled over editorial policy of platforming transphobes – with one MP pointing out the searingly obvious

Nick Duffy September 30, 2020
The new BBC director general Tim Davie

The new BBC director general Tim Davie (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The new BBC director general Tim Davie has faced a grilling in parliament over the corporation’s policy of requiring any comments in support of trans equality to be “balanced” with the views of transphobes.

Davie, who succeeded Lord Hall as the BBC’s director general this month, was grilled by the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday.

BBC is requiring anti-trans views for ‘balance’.

Scottish National Party MP John Nicolson, a long-serving former BBC journalist and presenter, challenged the editorial approach towards trans issues within BBC News – citing a report on the views of political parties on gender recognition reform that was amended after it was published to include a comment from a “feminist writer”, unconnected to any political party, who opposes trans rights.

Nicolson said: “In June of this year an article was published on the BBC website from your LGBT+ correspondent, reporting that every UK political party had condemned the UK government’s proposed lack of action on trans people. After that was written and published, it was later amended to include a ‘balanced comment’, not from the Secretary of State, but from somebody unrelated who appeared to oppose trans rights.

“This hostile comment was included after the story had been written. I can’t imagine if you were running a story on Black Lives Matter, that you would drop in a [quote] from somebody who is hostile to the movement, or that if you’re doing something about equality for women, that you’d drop in a quote from somebody who thought that was intrinsically a bad idea.”

New BBC director general Tim Davie was challenged by John Nicholson, SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire
John Nicholson, SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire.

The case is far from an isolated one.

PinkNews is aware of another case in which a BBC programme invited an all-transgender panel to discuss their experiences and varied views on gender recognition – before an intervention by the broadcaster’s editorial policy unit required the inclusion of a cisgender woman with ‘gender critical’ views.

In a message heard by PinkNews, a transgender person who had agreed to the debate on the basis of it being an all-trans panel was told by a researcher: “With every debate we have to go through editorial policy, a department of the BBC that makes sure we’re complying with the guidelines. They’ve advised us that we have to include a cis woman’s opinion on the panel to get that aspect of the discussion balanced and presenting that section of society.”

The researcher confirmed that the cisgender woman chosen for the panel “echoes” some of the views of prominent anti-transgender groups.

The decision to include the panellist led to at least one of the transgender people planning on taking part in the discussion withdrawing entirely from it.

BBC boss Tim Davie says racism is bad but gives no assurances on trans issues.

Davie gave few assurances over the corporation’s stance on the issue when pressed by Nicolson – suggesting he is unable to explain the BBC’s approach to transgender issues without “the article in front of me”, though he did manage to condemn racism without relying on the use of written aides.

He responded: “I haven’t got the article in front of me, so it’s very difficult to make a detailed editorial assessment of it. I think on these things… it’s very interesting the point you make on Black Lives Matter, because I was very clear that racism is abhorrent and absolutely we stand as the BBC against it.

“We stand in support of our Black colleagues, those things are absolutely core to us, but then, editorially, it’s interesting, and as editor-in-chief I’ve got to walk the line.

“Black Lives Matter clearly there is some debate around the political campaigning, the various elements of that, that I think are legitimate debate.

“On the trans case, I don’t know, and without that in front of me I cannot get to that line.”

More: BBC, bbc transphobia, ben hunte, John Nicolson, Tim Davie, transphobia

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