BBC’s insider reveals trainee journalists are encouraged to use ‘influence to affect trans rights’


BBC’s trans rights training ‘breaks its impartiality guidelines’: Insider reveals trainee journalists are told to ‘become allies’ and ‘influence the media’ on transgender and non-binary issues in breach of corporation’s editorial code

  • A junior journalist gave an anonymous account of training to BBC’s Nolan Show
  • Insider said it included how ‘allies’ could use ‘influence to affect trans rights’
  • But they questioned if what they were being asked to do breached impartiality
  • The talk, by Global Butterflies, comes after BBC pulled from Stonewall scheme
  • BBC pulled from Diversity Champions Scheme after report by Nolan Investigates
  • The report examined the close links between Stonewall and public organisations

The BBC has been accused of going against its own impartiality guidelines by offering training courses in which staff are told to use ‘their magical ally powers’ to ‘access influencers and influence politicians’ over trans and non-binary issues.

According to a BBC insider, junior journalists have been given a training session about how ‘allies’ could use their ‘influence to affect trans rights for people’.

During the talk, delivered by trans awareness group Global Butterflies, staff were also said to have been encouraged to ‘access influencers, change the mind of the media and influence politicians’.

This is despite the importance of impartiality being ‘hammered into them’ from the start of their BBC training, the BBC insider claimed.

The allegations were broadcast on the BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show, fronted by radio host Stephen Nolan – who produced award-nominated podcast Nolan Investigates: Stonewall last year.

The podcast, which sparked both acclaim and accusations of transphobia, examined the campaign group’s influence on UK institutions, including the BBC.

A month later the BBC pulled out of the Stonewall Diversity Scheme – though the corporation insisted its review of its membership came before the podcast.

Now questions are being asked about its new scheme with Global Butterflies following the fresh allegations by Nolan and his team.

Today the BBC insisted its Editorial Guidelines – which demand impartiality – were ‘sacrosanct’ and that the training was ‘voluntary’.

However it said it had asked Global Butterflies to make changes to the course – by removing the slide entitled ‘Your magical powers of being an ally’.

The BBC (pictured: Library image of broadcasting house) has been accused of breaking its own impartiality guidelines by offering training courses in which staff are told to use 'their magical ally powers' to 'access influencers and influence politicians'

The BBC (pictured: Library image of broadcasting house) has been accused of breaking its own impartiality guidelines by offering training courses in which staff are told to use ‘their magical ally powers’ to ‘access influencers and influence politicians’

The allegations were broadcast on the BBC's Nolan Show - fronted by radio host Stephen Nolan (pictured) - whose team produced the award-nominated podcast Nolan Investigates: Stonewall last year

The allegations were broadcast on the BBC’s Nolan Show – fronted by radio host Stephen Nolan (pictured) – whose team produced the award-nominated podcast Nolan Investigates: Stonewall last year

The podcast, which sparked both acclaim and accusations of transphobia, examined the campaign group's influence on UK institutions, including the BBC. A month later the BBC pulled out of the Stonewall (pictured: Library image of people supporting Stonewall) Diversity Scheme - though insisted its review of its membership came before the podcast

The podcast, which sparked both acclaim and accusations of transphobia, examined the campaign group’s influence on UK institutions, including the BBC. A month later the BBC pulled out of the Stonewall (pictured: Library image of people supporting Stonewall) Diversity Scheme – though insisted its review of its membership came before the podcast

A spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘This is a voluntary course and includes generic training materials provided by a third party, but the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines are sacrosanct, our staff know this and they understand their responsibilities.

‘The slide in question has not been included previously and will be removed for any future sessions.’

It comes after the BBC insider revealed the contents of the training course on Nolan’s show yesterday.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, and with a voice-over to protect the person’s identity, the insider said: ‘During that session we were given a lot of different points of how allies could sort of use their influence to affect trans rights for people, and one of the slides was headlined: “with your magical powers of being an ally”. 

BBC podcast Nolan Investigates: Stonewall examined the campaign group's influence on UK institutions and was nominated in four categories at the annual Audio and Radio Industry Awards (Arias)

BBC podcast Nolan Investigates: Stonewall examined the campaign group’s influence on UK institutions and was nominated in four categories at the annual Audio and Radio Industry Awards (Arias)

‘And it wasn’t until we got further down that slide that I realised that it talked about using your influence on politicians to affect change which was sort of the main point that they were trying to get across.

‘And I suppose this was how you affect change and influence on politicians.

The host of the segment then responded: ‘It is said that trainees should access influencers, change the minds of the media, and influence politicians

‘And by this point in the BBC, you’ve been taught about the importance of impartiality. So what did you make of this?’

The insider replied: ‘The second you join the BBC, impartiality is hammered into you and how you can’t influence people and that you always have to be neutral.

‘And that is hammered into us from the very beginning. But as soon as I saw that I was thinking, how is that impartial? 

‘Are they now telling us to break the impartiality? I started debating whether the training I had in impartiality was incorrect, or whether my understanding of what was correct, to the actual point where I had to ask a colleague if the impartiality meant that I could do this?’

It is the second time that Nolan has run critical claims against LGBTQ+ training schemes used by the BBC.

An investigation by Nolan Investigates, a podcast run by the 5 Live presenter, revealed how staff were shown a controversial ‘genderbread person’ graphic in equality training for Stonewall.

His investigation found that the image was presented to employees as part of an internal BBC course set up in conjunction with the lobby group.

The ‘genderbread person’ graphic depicts sex as a spectrum and defines gender identity as ‘how you think about yourself’.

It was apparently shown to BBC staff with no alternative explanations despite these ideas being contested.

The image, which was presented to employees as part of an internal BBC course set up in conjunction with the lobby group, depicts sex as a spectrum and defines gender identity as ‘how you think about yourself’

The podcast also examined how public-funded bodies including the BBC, Ofcom and the Scottish and Welsh governments had been influenced by Stonewall due to their involvement in the group’s diversity schemes.

The programme revealed that Nicola Sturgeon’s government agreed to delete the word ‘mother’ from its maternity leave policy after pressure from Stonewall.

Stonewall requests ministers to remove ‘gendered’ words from official policies as part of its advice on becoming more LGBT friendly. 

Nolan Investigates also found that broadcast regulator Ofcom submitted evidence about its diversity practices to the Workplace Equality Index in a bid to get the best possible ranking. 

Among this evidence was rulings it had made against broadcasters in response to allegedly transphobic comments – prompting some commentators to suggest its rulings were being influenced by the charity’s agenda. This was strongly denied by Ofcom, which insisted its involvement with the index had ‘no bearing whatsoever’ on its decisions as a regulator. 

The programme also found that Stonewall ‘dictated policy’ to the Welsh government – convincing officials to adopt its interpretation of the Equality Act to include ‘gender identity’ as a protected characteristic. 

The podcast, which came with an accompanying news piece that also accused the charity of exerting undue influence on bodies through its Diversity Champions Programme, was met with mixed reactions.

It was nominated in four categories at the annual Audio and Radio Industry Awards (Arias). 

The programme was also widely praised and may have played a role in the government’s decision to distance itself from the charity last year over its allegedly ‘extremist stance’ on trans issues and hostility to gender-critical opinions. 

But a group of radio producers slammed the decision to nominate the programme due to its ‘harmful nature’, while a production company threatened to boycott awards organiser the Radio Academy if it ‘continues to promote transphobic work’.

It was also criticised by Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, LGBT+ Labour and Trans Media Watch.

A Stonewall spokesperson said at the time of the investigation: ‘Our work with employers focuses on helping to build an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace for their employees, and in no way affects their impartiality. 

‘Supporting LGBTQ+ people in the workplace should not be seen as a political or controversial act.’ 

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