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October 19, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:40am

More than 800 sign open letter accusing BBC of failures in reporting of LGBT issues

By Robert Sawyer

More than 800 people have signed an open letter to the BBC claiming the broadcaster is failing in its responsibilities when reporting on LGBT issues, particularly those affecting the trans community.

Organised by trans former BBC research and development technologist Chris Northwood, the letter, published on Medium, accuses the BBC of breaching several of the public purposes set out in its Royal Charter.

For example, the letter alleged editorial standards had been low in recent “shallow” reporting on trans issues which had “taken the words of anti-LGBT campaign groups at face value, rather than exploring them in depth”.

It claimed BBC shows had “permitted misinformation by anti-trans campaigners on self-identification within the context of Gender Recognition Act reform to pass unchallenged”.

“By focussing much of the debate around trans issues through the lens of the anti-trans campaigners’ arguments”, the signatories argue, the BBC fails its requirement to “accurately and authentically represent and portray the lives of the people of the United Kingdom today”.

Signatures were collected through a Google form and did not require signatories to have an affiliation with the BBC. Signatories included current and former BBC employees and ITV newsreader and broadcaster India Willoughby, who recently quit as a pundit on GB News, accusing the start-up channel of “demonising trans people at every opportunity”.

The letter asked the BBC to increase staff training to “address failings of news and current affairs coverage which has permitted misinformation on trans issues”. It also called for the BBC to “include trans people in the coverage of their lives” and “appropriately discipline any staff that contribute to a hostile working environment”.

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A BBC spokesperson told Press Gazette: “The BBC is for everyone and we are committed to representing all parts of society, right across the UK. 

“We always strive to ensure our reporting and wider output contains different viewpoints and opinions, in line with our duty of impartiality and in accordance with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. We also encourage all our staff to be inclusive, be themselves at work and our HR policies comply in full with the Equalities Act.”

The letter also took issue with what it described as the BBC “presenting the LGB Alliance as a pro-LGB organisation, focussing purely on sexual orientation rather than gender issues”.

The LGB Alliance is an advocacy group launched in 2019 which, according to its website, aims to “advance lesbian, gay and bisexual rights”. The group campaigns against what it calls “gender extremism”, arguing “that sex is binary, female and male”.

Last week, the BBC was the subject of an investigation by one of its own shows, Nolan Investigates, which claimed that LGBT advocacy organisation Stonewall had influenced the broadcaster through its diversity scheme.

The Nolan Investigates programme was criticised as an example of transphobic reporting by the BBC. The i reported that groups such as LGBT+ Labour and Trans Media Watch, plus campaigner Peter Tatchell, had accused the BBC of “demonising” Stonewall with the “shameful” coverage.

In June last year, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt and SNP MPs Kirsty Blackman and Stewart McDonald were among signatories to another open letter accusing BBC News of being “institutionally transphobic”. 

It said: “It seems very clear that the BBC is dealing with trans issues in a way it should never contemplate dealing with issues relating to any protected characteristic under the Equality Act.”

Picture: Nicky Ebbage/Getty

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