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BBC Leaves Stonewall, tells LGBTQ Staff "We're not impartial on human rights"
It's been rumoured for some time - and after an egregious article comparing trans people to rapists, and a ten-hour broadcast on Stonewall - it's perhaps no surprise that the BBC left Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme this week.
You may have seen the news, but it was BBC Director-General Tim Davie's email to LGBTQIA+ staff that says much more about what's going on, inside BBC HQ.
Wait, what is the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme?
The scheme supports employers to be LGBTQ+ inclusive. It has been at the centre of a culture war in the UK media, focused on Stonewall's support for transgender rights.
It sits alongside, a Diversity Champions list, which whether you pay for support from the scheme, ranks all major UK employers based on how LGBTQ+ inclusive you are.
And so, you might be surprised to learn that after leaving Stonewall's programme of supprt - the BBC are now joining, an alternative diversity scheme. INvolve who they are now joining, do essentially the same thing: Give the BBC consultation on how it can be LGBTQIA+ inclusive for its staff.
This wasn't in the public announcement but was in the email to BBC Pride - which was sent to me. You can read the email in full on my Forbes column.
What does the email say?
The email expands on the public statement the BBC made about leaving the scheme and recognises the decision won't be popular with many in the group.
The key reason Davie cites for quitting the scheme is because of the org's need to provide 'due impartiality.' It's a key part of the BBC's broadcasting code and is closely tied to any debates about the way the organisation is funded through a licence fee all U.K. residents have to pay. - Something they doubled down on in their write up of the news.
Because Stonewall is campaigning on a 'live' policy debate - transgender people are currently a matter of press and policy discussion - being tied to Stonewall is not 'possible.'
But the reason this counts and will be devastating to transgender – and all LGBTQIA+ staff? Davie is ultimately saying that the BBC can't take a side on human rights:
"Finally, I wanted to directly address an issue that a number of people have put to me. Some have asked me whether the BBC needs to be 'impartial on trans people’s lives'. I want to be clear, our impartiality is infused with democratic values and we are not impartial on human rights. In simple terms, what that means is that we don’t condone or support discrimination in any form."
– BBC Director Tim Davie, in an email to BBC Pride, the org's LGBTQIA+ staff group
The email also bizarrely sets out that despite quitting, the BBC will continue to work with Stonewall on "relevant" and "corporate" projects. Which begs the question why leave at all?
Stonewall, the U.K.'s largest LGBTQ+ charity, says the decision will ultimately harm LGBTQIA+ staff, who are often disadvantaged in all workplaces.
The day after all of this - the BBC's former LGBT correspondent published a piece at his new role, Vice World News, explaining that the culture of fear this saga has created has seen queer BBC staff leave in droves.
Speaking to a BBC Pride member, it's clear that this exhaustion on the matter echos around the corridors - and is having a detrimental impact, not just on the many transgender BBC staff, but all LGBTQIA+ people at the organisation.
One PinkNews report even said anti-trans voices have the 'ears' of the senior editorial staff. Indeed - the week ended with Woman's Hour host Emma Barnett likening having an LGBT correspondent role, to the BBC being biased. On a show, which has been creating content specifically, for another protected characteristic, for 75 years.
It's a difficult week for LGBTQIA+ representation in the media. A small but vocal group have successfully pivoted their hate-fueled claims - into a national debate. One that is going to continue to question all queer rights, and demonise transgender people, for some time ahead.
But here is hope out there - keep reading this email for starters - and because it's an inherently queer action to set up something new, model the change, and create a space that works for us.
It's why I'm so happy to welcome Chris McKenna (CEO of Brand Advance) and Steve Parkinson (Chief Strategic Partnerships & Events Officer, Bauer Audio UK) to the QueerAF movement. Together we're going to model the change, with a new generation of queer media professionals.
We're not yet sharing our work on social media, as we work behind the scenes to launch. But do you know anyone who can pledge £7 a month or £50 a year to fund our newsletter, become a founding member too?
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