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Pride and shame at the Beeb

The BBC needs more balance on gender issues

Artillery Row

Hope springs eternal. A new chairman has been sent aboard the sinking ship that is the BBC. Last week ex-banker Richard Sharp assured the Sunday Times he had a bold strategy to save the Corporation, which has become the Fighting Temeraire of journalism: dragged by identity warriors to its final sunset. At the heart of his plan is impartiality. “We’re not a campaigning institution. Our approach is to present the facts and not to lead with a broadcaster’s opinion.” If only his staff agreed.

Last week I popped into a party held as part of a television festival in Glasgow, and I promptly discovered how deep the conviction runs in the BBC that impartiality is old hat. For years critics of the Corporation have claimed its Pride Group, for LGBTQ+ staff, wields outsize and unwarranted influence on the working culture and editorial output of one of the world’s most respected media organisations. I know from talking to BBC insiders, who can’t speak openly for fear of losing their jobs, that this is true.

Gender ideology can drive otherwise intelligent people quite mad

Imagine my delight when at the event I was introduced to one of the BBC’s executives, Nathan Wren, who develops science programming. If anyone was pushing mightily against the threat of such editorial interference it would surely be someone who wraps himself in the “S” word. As I urged him and his Department to keep up the good fight against the imposition of irrational gender ideology, I was surprised to note a lack of enthusiasm in his eyes. I pushed on. It was essential for science program makers, I argued, to keep reminding other staff that a woman with a penis was what the vast majority of the public rightly calls a man. The eyes narrowed.

As I railed against the cowardice of BBC management in the face of the Pride Group, young Nathan stopped me in my tracks to announce I was actually talking to the Co-Chair of the Pride Group. I have to admit I’d imagined some blue-haired social justice warrior and not a perfectly polite young gay man. That’s the thing about gender ideology: it can drive even otherwise intelligent people quite mad.

When I raised the subject of his group’s biassed influence on output, Nathan had an extraordinary defence. “We only intervene, when, say, a trans subject is being covered and then we’ll press to ensure trans voices are being heard.” What is a trans issue? Is single sex provision for women a trans issue? When the BBC published an article about lesbians being bullied into sex by trans identified males, the Pride group led the charge internally against it, declaring it transphobic and demanding recantation. Turns out lesbians being bullied by transwomen is not a lesbian issue, only a trans one. The problem with this approach is that the Pride group, by Nathan’s admission, will push for trans voices on a story that affects lesbians or any other minority but not the other way round. Impartial? Not so much.

Nathan tried to excuse this skewing of the debate by saying it is often unsuccessful. “We often ask for changes and they don’t happen.” Why do Nathan and his group of agit-prop moaner-groaners think they have a right to ask for changes in the first place? The fact they do suggests they expect their views to be taken seriously by management. No wonder.

A circus troupe of LGBTQ+ groups latched onto the BBC’s succulent neck

In 2018 the BBC flushed its impartiality (which Richard Sharp now says is so important) down the gender-neutral when they published, in partnership with the Pride Group, an LGBT Culture and Career Progression Report. This report  was effectively a five year plan to transform the BBC into a model LGBTQ+ workplace.

Such plans are a key requirement of the trans-obsessed charity Stonewall in order to brown-nose your way up its Diversity Champions list. By some astonishing coincidence that will surprise absolutely no one, the Pride Group’s ten recommendations in the BBC’s plan included seven which required more engagement with, er, Stonewall.

This daylight robbery was foiled by an exposé podcast by the BBC’s only journalist brave enough to criticise it, Stephen Nolan, and the Corporation was eventually forced to break its links. But a circus troupe of other LGBTQ+ groups have subsequently latched onto the BBC’s succulent neck. One of them, Global Butterflies, argues clients should take a stance on changes to the law (such as gender recognition reform) which are highly controversial. When this was revealed in the Times, the video was removed from Global Butterflies’ website. Butterflies continue to “train” BBC staff at an unknown cost to the licence payer.

Like Stonewall before them, groups like Global Butterflies and Involve both advocate that top BBC management engage seriously with the Pride group. If the BBC engaged any more seriously with Pride, it would have to hand them the keys to Broadcasting House.

Guess who represents the Pride network at a BBC senior level as its “executive sponsor?” That could only be Phil Harrold, who in addition to being a BBC Trustee and the BBC’s Company Secretary is responsible for corporate governance across the Corporation. For £180K, he manages the business of the BBC Board, the Executive Committee and all other corporate decision-making bodies. He just happens also to be the Chief of Staff to the Director-General and that impartiality-championing new Chairman Richard Sharp. The BBC says Harrold “runs the private office that supports them in undertaking their duties”. I bet he does. What influence does he bring to bear on the BBC and more generally across the Corporation as the Pride’s executive sponsor? How can this be considered impartial?

In the old days, if a fringe group with crazy ideas wanted to take over a TV station, never mind a global broadcaster, they had to mount a coup. But bombs and machine guns are so déclassé now. You can now achieve the same impact with a few plaintive emails that bemoan the imagined horrors of transphobia and homophobia in one of the most liberal employers in the world. The BBC used to be relied on to report on coups in countries across the world. Shame it can no longer be relied on to bother about the LGBTQ+ coup in its own corridors of power.

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