The BBC has been accused of key failures in its coverage of LGBT+ issues – particularly towards the trans community – in a letter signed by more than 800 people.
The letter, organised by former BBC research and development technologist Chris Northwood, condemns the broadcaster for uncritically platforming the likes of the LGB Alliance.
The letter, which was published by Northwood on Medium, notes that the BBC’s first “public purpose” as a state-funded broadcaster is that “content should be provided to the highest editorial standards” and “should offer a range and depth of analysis and content”.
“In particular, some recent coverage regarding transgender issues have been shallow rather than in depth, and have taken the words of anti-LGBT campaign groups at face value, rather than exploring them in depth,” the letter reads.
Northwood’s letter argues that the BBC has fallen short on its editorial standards in its recent coverage of Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform as well as on the role of Stonewall.
“One prominent example is presenting the LGB Alliance as a pro-LGB organisation, focussing purely on sexual orientation rather than gender issues, when the campaigning and action of such a group does not back this up but instead shows that they are actually an anti-trans organisation, rather than a pro-LGB one,” Northwood’s letter says.
BBC accused of allowing ‘misinformation’ to be spread by ‘anti-trans campaigners’
The letter also criticises the BBC for permitting “misinformation” to be disseminated through its platforms by “anti-trans campaigners on self-identification”.
“We are further concerned that on this issue the BBC is also in breach of the court public purpose, which seeks to ‘accurately and authentically represent and portray the lives of the people of the United Kingdom today,'” Northwood’s letter says.
“Although there have been several documentaries which centre the experience of trans people, when it comes to more general coverage, there has been a lack of accuracy and authenticity in the representation of the lives of trans people.”
The letter suggests that the BBC has opted to focus on “niche” issues such has trans women in sports, debates about language and detransitioners instead of exploring the real-world experiences of the trans community.
An open letter to the BBC on trans lives and how it's currently failing its responsibilities under the charter. Please let me know if you'd like me to add your name as a signatory to the open letter. https://t.co/RV8DsPhBQJ
— Chris Northwood (@cnorthwood) October 17, 2021
“By focusing much of the debate around trans issues through the lens of the anti-trans campaigners arguments, rather than the authentic lives of trans people, the BBC is failing in its public purposes,” Northwood wrote.
The letter ends with a series of recommendations to the BBC to help improve its approach to trans issues. It asks that the BBC implement “staff training” on LGBT+ issues and address failings within its news and current affairs arm “which has permitted misinformation on trans issues… to spread unchecked”.
Northwood’s letter goes on to ask the BBC to “include trans people in the coverage of their lives” and to avoid “straw man arguments presented by anti-trans campaigners”.
Finally, the letter urges the BBC to “recommit to a workplace that is safe for trans people” and to “appropriately discipline any staff that contribute to a hostile working environment”.
The letter has already been signed by more than 900 people, including trans television presenter India Willoughby, trans activist Freddy McConnell and LGBT+ activist Katy Montgomerie.
A BBC spokesperson told Press Gazette that the broadcaster “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.”
Northwood’s letter was published just days after the BBC found itself embroiled in controversy over a podcast series created by BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show which sought to “investigate” the broadcaster’s relationship with Stonewall. The podcast has been condemned by politicians and senior LGBT+ figures.
The Stephen Nolan Show has invited Stonewall to contribute to an “additional episode” of the podcast series after the charity declined to take part in the investigation’s original run.