A phot of BBC's Justin Webb at Chiswick Book Festival credit; Roger Green, Wikimedia Commons

Justin Webb of BBC Radio 4 recently posted on Twitter regarding the BBC’s decision to back out of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions and Workplace Equality Index Schemes. He claimed that the BBC and “responsible organisations” cut ties with Stonewall over claims they had made in a 2017 School Report. The BBC response to a Freedom of Information request I sent does not corroborate this.

This isn’t going to be the final piece in this Justin Webb BBC Stonewall saga as I have already sent a follow-up FOI request to the BBC for further probing, but we’ll get to that. First I should probably work to get you all up to speed on exactly what’s happening here.

In tweets between Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis and Former UN Special Adviser on Human Trafficking and Justin Webb; Webb links an article by a known anti-trans group called “Transgender Trend” while outright lying about the BBC’s decision to no longer participate in Stonewall schemes.

Specifically, Justin Webb claims that the BBC and other “responsible organisations” backed out of the schemes as a result of Stonewall making the claims Steve Chalke linked in his tweet. Which includes statistics from Stonewall’s 2017 school report showing that 40% of trans youth have attempted to take their own life.

This didn’t sound right to me – afterall the BBC decided to drop Stonewall amidst an anti-Stonewall campaign I’ve been collecting information about since before Trans Writes even existed. Stonewall have been so heavily targeted by anti-trans groups that even Liz Truss, a woman who would briefly be our Prime Minister, urged an official withdrawal from Stonewall schemes in The Times.

In an internal memo dated 10th November 2021 – mere months after the above article – Tim Davie writes to BBC staff stating;

“As many of you will be aware we have been participants in the Diversity Champions Programme, along with hundreds of other employers, for quite some time now. We have had – and continue to have – a positive and constructive discussion with Stonewall. We will continue to work with Stonewall in the future, on relevant projects. Our decision to leave the Champions Programme, and the associated Workplace Equality Index, is not a bar on the BBC working with Stonewall on corporate projects.

It is however, unquestionable that recently our participation in the Diversity Champions has led some organisations and individuals to consider that the BBC can not be impartial when reporting on public policy debates where Stonewall is taking an active, Campaigning, role. It is for this reason that I believe that it is the right time to step back frm the programme.

Since the day I started as Director-General, I have said that maintianing our impartiality is vitally important. Our journalists and programme makers must be able to report a full range of perspectives on sotries and it is essential that our audience believe us to be impartial on the public policy discussions we are covering.  While I do not think that our journalism has been influenced by our involvement in the Diversity Champions programme, not renewing our involvement is the correct move at this time to minimise the risk of perceived bias and avoid any perception that engagement with the programme is influencing our own decision-making.”

In short, Davie is saying Justin Webb is a liar and that they actually pulled out of Stonewall due to a perception of bias from some organisation and individuals and that this is completely “unquestionable”. Except for maybe – who are these individuals and people? Why do they have such influence over the BBC? and What about the perception of bias given off by the BBC by following orders from Tory politicians amidst an anti-trans moral panic they are manufacturing?

Davie also outright says that he believes involvement in Stonewall schemes has not impacted the BBC’s journalism and that they will continue working with Stonewall where relevant to do so. Altogether making the decision to publicly drop Stonewall the way they did appear to nothing but transphobic theatre, in my opinion.

Davie’s letter continues; “Finally, I wanted to directly address an issue that a number of people have put to me. Some have asked whether the BBC needs to be impartial on trans peoples 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 we don’t condone or support discrimination in any form.

Our editorial guidelines are also clear: when reporting on policy debates, our journalism must be impartial and reflect a range of views. I want our reporting to cover a range of topic and different perspectice, to help our audiences understand and engage with the world around them.

Please be assured that the decision to leave the Diversity Champions Programme does not diminish our commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion in the BBC. I am committed to providing a workplace in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and non-binary colleagues are respected, welcomed and able to fully participate.”

Note: This letter is dated about two weeks after The BBC published an article attempting to frame transgender women as rapists or otherwise sexually coercive. An article whose main sources were random bigots from Twitter and Lily Cade who, in the immediate aftermath of the backlash, went on to threaten to execute famous transgender women. By this time word of the immense outrage that would lead to multiple petitions and protests outside the BBC had almost certainly reached the Executive Committee.

The BBC’s impartiality is further reduced when Justin Webb is allowed to lie on social media while linking to groups widely described as anti-trans hate groups on Twitter. This is not impartial. This is anti-trans propaganda being platformed and spread by the BBC. At time of writing Justin Webb has not apologised for misleading the public on the BBC’s honestly still lackluster explanation for their decision or the integrity of Stonewall.

It seems as long as your impartiality leans the same way as our anti-LGBTQIA Tory government, it’s all good in the BBC book!

I have sent through a second request for information from the BBC regarding which organisations and individuals Tim Davie is referring to specifically. The attack on Stonewall wasn’t small in relation to LGBTQIA+ people but across the whole population of the UK? It was barely heard of. Ask almost any of your straight friends if they knew about this stuff, they probably didn’t.  So it appears as though a very vocal minority have managed to exert a massive influence over the BBC – which just so happens to have been inline with what anti-trans politicians and Tufton Street think tanks were and still are saying. Weird, right?

I don’t think the BBC even fully know why they dropped Stonewall. It appears as though a manufactured outrage by a vocal minority of bigots was somehow able to influence this decision and BBC leadership is so poor it simply allowed it to happen, unquestionably.

Though until we find out who these organisations and individuals are, we just don’t know. In the meantime you can access to the full release of the information obtained in the first FOI via this PDF Link.