The Nolan team based in Belfast are a group of BBC journalists well used to asking awkward questions. Nolan looks at the influence Stonewall has in public institutions across the UK. This 18 month investigation has already had significant impact behind the scenes in major public institutions. The podcast is the story of how it all unfolded.
A team of volunteers at Fair Play For Women have transcribed the main content from each of the ten episodes spanning over 6 hours of audio content. You can listen to the full audio here or read the condensed transcript below.
Episode 10 – Is the BBC too close to Stonewall?
We look at whether the BBC’s output was influenced by Stonewall.
The BBC’s LGBT Correspondent has fronted an initiative for Stonewall. How is that consistent with any BBC role? How does that give the impression of impartiality?
We asked the BBC to explain to us how Stonewall’s position of having multiple genders in society had suddenly become the language of the BBC’s Education Department. They did not answer the specific questions. They did not provide anybody for interview on their own network.
If you are a journalist here and you’re looking to the manager making his position very clear about the rights and wrongs of open debate around this issue, that’s going to have a chilling effect throughout the organisation.
I don’t see how the BBC can have this relationship, and Tim Davie can still get up and talk about impartiality.
I don’t think it should have any relationship. Language is crucial. Language is so important. For me in my career, I can’t think of anything else I’ve covered where words, syllables… language has been so crucial to maintaining impartiality. You can’t slip up here. And yet the BBC has allowed this language into its corporate side, and it’s there in its editorial as well.
This is not common parlance. This is political language. This is campaigning language, and it’s the campaigning language which is used by organisations who are on one particular side of that political campaign, the most prominent of which is Stonewall. And when I queried this because I did start to query some of this stuff, I was told that the BBC kind of checked this with Stonewall and Stonewall were fine. They were fine with it, and therefore the BBC was fine with it.
I do hope that somebody very senior in the BBC stands up and addresses this whole issue really head on and really directly. Is [it the] right side of history to accept a man who says he’s a woman actually is a woman? That’s not been decided. It’s not been decided in law. There hasn’t been a big public debate about it. And so the BBC shouldn’t have already settled on that.
We’ve heard in this podcast about how the Diversity and Inclusion unit are influenced by Stonewall and would use Stonewall’s resources and use Stonewall language when they’re talking stuff. Now our understanding is that when the BBC Style Guide was being updated, Diversity and Inclusion had an input.
Homosexuality, according to the BBC, is about people who are attracted to people of the same gender. So that controversial debate is now summed up in the BBC style guide, and they’ve made their position really clear. So basically the BBC is stating as fact because it’s changed this language. If a gay male in the BBC’s wording now, that means they’re attractive, not to someone with male genitalia, but to someone also who says, I’m a man, whether you have a vagina and breasts or not.
[00:01:24.650] – David Thompson
We’re scrutinising the BBC just as we would any politician or anyone else. I’ve spoken to a number of journalists within the BBC who are really uncomfortable about this relationship with Stonewall, but don’t think that they can talk. But now we have someone to talk. She’s just left the BBC, but she’s willing to speak now.
[00:01:42.650] – Stephen Nolan
Sam Smith, a BBC journalist, thinks that people are frightened to speak out, to say what they really think about Stonewall, given the pressure that comes with doing that on social media and beyond.
[00:01:57.410] – David Thompson
So, Sam, you worked for the BBC for many years. Inside Out. You’re an investigative journalist there.
[00:02:03.590] – Sam Smith
That’s right. Yeah. I did 25 years in the BBC. I started at Five Live working as a journalist and latterly as the editor of the Southwest edition of Inside Out, which was the kind of regional current affairs programme. It was an absolute joy to be working for an organisation where you just felt completely aligned to its core principles. And one of those core principles was impartiality, independence. Right. And before I was an editor, I was a presenter. As a presenter, you get asked quite a lot to open things or lend your support to charities and so on. And with just one or two fetes that I opened, I said no to everything. I was absolutely clear on it that this is what the organisation expected of me personally, not to align myself to any cause or political position, however noble, however kind, however well meaning it seemed to be. And this is the difficulty I have with the BBC lining itself up with Stonewall in the way it has, being part of the Stonewall Club, being marked by Stonewall and paying money for Stonewall and using Stonewall’s language. How is that independent? How is that impartial? And it must have a chilling effect on many of our editorial staff, who, for example, are faced with covering the legal cases that are going on at the moment around Stonewall being in many other of our state institutions and organisations. So how could it not have a chilling effect when it’s written large across the BBC that we are a champion?
[00:03:44.470] – Sam Smith
I can’t think of anything else the BBC has done that’s in the same ballpark. We take advice from the Samaritans, don’t we about our language around suicide. They’re kind of our sole advisors, if you like, as the experts on media coverage of this issue. And I think for a lot of staff, they’re actually just trying to be nice and they see our relationship with Stonewall as part of being nice to people who might face discrimination and so on. The trouble is the impartiality element of this, for people who do not agree with Stonewall’s campaigning position on the gender identity issue, it is not nice for an organisation to align itself with Stonewall and Stonewall’s mission. That is not nice to people who are on the other side of this debate. We have to be impartial about niceness. And I honestly think a lot of this is just a lot of decent people thinking they’re doing the right thing by embracing diversity, being kind. They think they’re on the right side of history.
[00:04:46.030] – Stephen Nolan
Come on, you’re giving them a bye ball. Come on. They’re journalists for goodness sake. Their whole job is to be curious and scrutinised and not take, as a matter of fact, what someone says to them. So I, like you, I love this organisation. It is my dream to work in the BBC, and I mean that. I think it’s an incredible organisation, but I want to know how the BBC has got itself in a position where it is taking its lead, not from itself but from a lobbying group.
[00:05:19.250] – David Thompson
One of the big unanswered questions so far in this podcast is has Stonewall had an influence over the BBC’s editorial? The BBC have refused to give us the corresponds they’ve had with Stonewall, so we can’t say 100%. But we do know that in an article, the BBC staff discussing the relationship with Stonewall BBC said that some of the things that had helped them move up Stonewall’s Equality Index was that they had appointed the first ever LGBTQ plus news correspondent and first gender identity correspondent in BBC news. We’ve corporately adopted the term LGBTQ Plus Stonewell’s term and that we’ve been raising awareness of the importance of gender pronouns. They’re all issues that Stonewall have lobbied on, and the BBC has moved on. So that is prima facie evidence of Stonewall having some success influencing the BBC’s editorial. And I know some journalists in the BBC saw it exactly that way. So hopefully we’ll get some straight answers from the BBC on that.
[00:06:23.570] – Stephen Nolan
Since we started working on this podcast, the BBC’s former LGBT correspondent, Ben Hunte, has left the Corporation for a role in Vice World News.
[00:06:48.590] – David Thompson
Right, so there’s been a lot of criticism from the gender critical people, Stonewall’s opponents, basically about this video. The Stonewall video about the Stonewall Riots in America commemorating the anniversary.
[00:07:00.470] – Stephen Nolan
I don’t know what the Stonewall Riots were.
[00:07:02.210] – David Thompson
The Stonewall riots were essentially a lot of people look back on the riots as the point where the gay rights movement began, where people stood up against the state and oppression of the state and fought for their freedom. And that’s where the Stonewall charity’s name comes from. So Stonewall done a little video to commemorate one of a series of videos for LGBTQ History Month. And it’s presented by Ben Hunte, our BBC LGBT correspondent.
[00:07:58.190] – David Thompson
Gender critical people are angry about this video because there’s a BBC correspondent front, and I think it was a TikTok video originally, this is posted on Twitter for a campaign organisation which they fundamentally disagree with on lots of issues. I can’t think of another example where a BBC correspondent would front the video for a campaign group.
[00:08:22.670] – Stephen Nolan
Ben Hunte has fronted an initiative for Stonewall. How is that consistent with any BBC role? How does that give the impression of impartiality?
[00:08:31.850] – David Thompson
Well, maybe the argument is there’s nothing he’s saying there, which is contentious, nothing that I’m aware of that’s contentious. He’s appearing in this video and he’s talking about history.
[00:08:41.030] – Stephen Nolan
No, but no, but there’s nothing contentious about Barnardos. There’s nothing contentious about other charities, but I can’t go and front something for them because the valid question would be, why am I not fronting something for every other charity? So if Ben Hunte is fronting a video for Stonewall, the next question is, why is he not fronting videos for the opponents of Stonewall within the LGBT movement, right?
[00:09:09.290] – David Thompson
Yeah. And there’s an issue here about the perception of impartiality because it’s not just about impartiality. It’s about the public’s perceptions. And in such a toxic debate, Ben, he’s not saying he’s in his BBC role, but he has a BBC LGBT correspondent, and he’s fronting a video for Stonewall.
[00:09:33.570] – Stephen Nolan
We asked the BBC to explain why the then BBC’s Ben Hunte was fronting Stonewall’s videos. We asked the BBC to explain to us how Stonewall’s position of having multiple genders in society had suddenly become the language of the BBC’s Education Department. They did not answer the specific questions. They did not provide anybody for interview on their own network. Here’s the BBC statement.
[00:10:05.070] – Voiceover
As a broadcaster, we have our own values and editorial standards. These are clearly set out and published in our editorial guidelines. We are also governed by the Royal Charter and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.
[00:10:19.390] – David Thompson
In Ben’s defence, the BBC already has a relationship with them. So why wouldn’t he? The BBC pays this organisation money for advice, and that advice filters down through the organisation, as we well know. So what’s the difference between that and then presenting a TikTok video for them? Why is there a difference between this one lobby group and all of the others out there on a range of issues? Why is this the one that’s inside the BBC advising us on HR policy and we’re paying money to? We don’t pay money to any of the other lobby groups.
[00:10:50.830] – Stephen Nolan
This is what a senior figure in the BBC’s Diversity and Inclusion Department told staff in response to the BBC Newsnight programme’s coverage of trans issues:
[00:11:02.530] – BBC Diversity & Inclusion Manager
Not necessarily my view, but certainly the BBC’s view is that we always need to be presenting a balanced argument and a balanced debate. And that’s why both sides’ arguments are shared. Hopefully, that kind of thing might change over time and things become less of a debate and more of a kind of right.
[00:11:25.330] – David Thompson
The BBC will always say that there’s a separation between the BBC as a broadcaster and it’s internal HR and the diversity and inclusion people. But when you have a BBC manager essentially being critical of how BBC journalists handle this debate, and how they cover it and saying that we need to get beyond that and the position of rights. Who is he speaking on behalf of? Is he speaking on behalf of this organisation? And if you are a journalist here and you’re looking to the manager making his position very clear about the rights and wrongs of open debate around this issue, that’s going to have a chilling effect throughout the organisation.
[00:14:53.710] – David Thompson
First ever LGBTQ plus news correspondent and first gender identity correspondent in BBC News. We’ve corporately adopted the term LGBTQ Plus Stonewall’s term and that we’ve been raising awareness of the importance of gender pronouns. That they’re all issues that Stonewall have lobbied on, and the BBC has moved on. So that is prima facie evidence of Stonewall having some success influencing the BBC’s editorial. And I know some journalists and the BBC saw it exactly that way.
[00:15:27.890] – Stephen Nolan
Ex BBC investigative journalist Sam Smith.
[00:15:32.090] – Sam Smith
I just don’t see an organisation can split itself in two like that and say, on our corporate HR side, we have one set of values and one set of relationships and we can kind of get into bed with certain political campaigning organisations, and that’s fine. And we can put this wall up and our staff will understand that. But what we say to them as staff, we don’t want them to say to the audience, we don’t want them to adopt those values and positions that we adopt on the corporate side of our organisation. I don’t see how the BBC can have this relationship, and Tim Davie can still get up and talk about impartiality. You can’t sever off one bit of the organisation, say, well, that bit we don’t actually have to… we can align ourselves to this organisation with a very strong political position.
[00:16:14.570] – Stephen Nolan
Sam, how have we got the most powerful broadcasting organisation in the UK too close to one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the UK?
[00:16:28.370] – Sam Smith
I don’t think it should have any relationship. Never mind the extremely… you know, to have our HR Department checking with Stonewall over our recruitment language, okay? Language is crucial. Language is so important. For me in my career, I can’t think of anything else I’ve covered where words, syllables… language has been so crucial to maintaining impartiality. You can’t slip up here. And yet the BBC has allowed this language into its corporate side, and it’s there in its editorial as well.
[00:17:07.910] – Stephen Nolan
Benjamin Cohen, again from Pink News.
[00:17:10.610] – Benjamin Cohen
Yeah, we don’t use, as it happens, our current style guide, is not to use LGBTQ Plus. We use LGBT Plus.
[00:17:17.210] – Stephen Nolan
Why has the BBC decided to use it?
[00:17:19.130] – Benjamin Cohen
Well, as it happens, we’re having an internal debate at the moment about whether we adopt LGBTQ Plus, because that’s the term that’s used by younger people. So we are considering changing our own guidelines. We used to use it as well, like Stonewall, right in the beginning, it wasn’t intentionally non trans inclusive, but we would describe ourselves as LGB news, and then it became LGBT coverage, and then it became LGBT Plus.
[00:17:45.750] – Stephen Nolan
Every licence fee payer throughout the United Kingdom is unable to know whether Stonewall has actually influenced the BBC to use that term.
[00:17:57.990] – Benjamin Cohen
My honest view is that I doubt it because the advice that Stonewall’s given to the BBC, as far as I’m aware, is relating to the treatment of you and your colleagues as employees rather than in the methodology that you’re broadcasting. I would accept that if the BBC changed the terminology, there may be an influence, but it might not just be from Stonewall. It’s just the fact that the BBC is a multinational broadcaster and produces content for a variety of audiences and this is the thing that we’re facing at Pink News. Most of our audience is in America and the terminology that is used by most news organisations in America now is LGBTQ plus. And so that’s one of the reasons that we’re considering changing our style guide and the BBC with the many tens of thousands of people who work at the BBC, maybe somewhat advanced in us in working on the style guide.
[00:18:49.050] – David Thompson
One other question, I wondered because the BBC told staff that they were keen to move up the Workplace Equality Index, and they set that as a goal. And they listed some examples of things that they have done which have improved LGBTQ equality as part of that. And one of those things was the use of promoting gender pronouns for staff, which obviously is controversial with some people.
[00:19:11.970] – Benjamin Cohen
Why is it controversial? But anyway, I’ll let you carry on with your question.
[00:19:15.210] – David Thompson
Well, you know, the debate as well, as I do, Benjamin.
[00:19:18.390] – Stephen Nolan
Help me here between the two of you. Why is it controversial, David?
[00:19:22.110] – Benjamin Cohen
David can explain why it’s controversial. I can tell you why I don’t think it is, which is…
[00:19:27.450] – David Thompson
Well, looking at this, there are two sides to this debate. It’s about sex versus gender, essentially and gender identity. So a lot of people who argue sex is more important than your gender identity will argue that if you start to bring in pronouns into organisations, you’re essentially taking a political position on the side of gender identity. That’s what those people argue.
[00:19:48.150] – Benjamin Cohen
Yeah, I understand. I’m not disputing that some people find it uncomfortable, but I’ll give you my perspective. As I said, I’m an employer. So I’ll give you my perspective as an employer. So we do have a pronouns policy on our email signatures and on Slack, which we use for internal messaging. Our pronouns are declared. And when we do a meeting with someone external or when there’s a candidate coming to be interviewed for a job, I’d say, Hi. My name is Benjamin. My pronouns are he / him, and that’s really important and I’ll explain why. We have a number of trans colleagues in the team. We have a number of nonbinary colleagues in the team, and knowing that someone’s preferred pronoun, is they / them or that their pronoun is he, if they’re a trans man, for example, is really important, so that employee doesn’t get misgendered and it’s to avoid awkward situations where someone might inadvertently misgender someone. So I understand why some people don’t like this, but this really is for the benefit of a particular group, but also for everyone to just make the workplace a less awkward place. Because I can certainly tell you that, as an employer, it would be absolutely mortifying and embarrassing if I misgendered an employee. I’m the CEO, and obviously it’s not the same as being the director general of the BBC, but the CEO of a company has like a degree of authority and is in inverted commas, “a scary person”, if I misgendered a really junior member of the team, they would probably find that quite distressing. And they might find it awkward to tell me that I am misgendering them. But I have no… it makes it very difficult for me to misgender them because I can see their pronouns on the system on the first time that we would have met, we would have shared what our preferred pronouns are. And so that’s why I’m saying I don’t consider it to be particularly contentious. If an individual…
[00:21:45.390] – David Thompson
But Benjamin, as an employer, if you had a member of staff who held gender critical views and they didn’t want to take part in that, and they didn’t want to put their pronouns on those emails, should that be compulsory, would you make an employee do that?
[00:21:58.170] – Benjamin Cohen
I would say that it’s unlikely that someone with gender critical views would either apply for or be successful in being employed at…
[00:22:06.330] – David Thompson
You couldn’t discriminate on someone based on gender critical views.
[00:22:09.630] – Benjamin Cohen
I can’t discriminate against them based on… Well, the recent thing would say that it’s a protected characteristic as a belief, right. I think it would be incredibly unlikely that someone who holds views that are contrary to the stated mission and values of Pink News would wish to work at Pink News.
[00:22:30.270] – Stephen Nolan
Let’s take this outside of Pink News and let’s look at government institutions. Should an employee be compelled to write this? He / she, they / them.
[00:22:41.190] – Benjamin Cohen
Honest answer is I think there’s a very specific thing in an organisation like Pink News, but I think that as a public sector body, of which the BBC is one, I think that it should be probably described as good practice. Steven, would you not want to know whether someone you’re working with and whether you might be inadvertently offending or upsetting someone that you’re working with?
[00:23:05.130] – David Thompson
But if you’re in a working environment and you have a good relationship with your colleagues and there’s a good working environment.
[00:23:12.690] – Benjamin Cohen
How would you have a good working..? How would me and you have a good..? Can I ask you what’s your preferred pronoun, David?
[00:23:21.570] – David Thompson
I don’t have a preferred pronoun.
[00:23:23.910] – Benjamin Cohen
How would people normally refer to you? Would they say “he said” “they said” “she said”? There’s presumably one of those three which people would say to you.
[00:23:33.690] – David Thompson
They would say he; they would say he.
[00:23:36.030] – Benjamin Cohen
If someone consistently said to you when describing you use “she”, which you find that… You wouldn’t find that distressing if, for example, the Director general.
[00:23:47.010] – David Thompson
I think what you’re talking about here is when someone discovers someone has preferred pronouns, they continue to misgender them.
[00:23:53.370] – Benjamin Cohen
[00:23:54.210] – David Thompson
You’re suggesting everyone puts this on the system or on their email address, which I think is a step further.
[00:23:58.770] – Benjamin Cohen
If the Director General of the BBC came on a visit to Northern Ireland and came to the radio studio and throughout the conversation misgendered you, would you find that awkward at all? Or you’re saying you wouldn’t find that awkward if they referred to you as a woman, for example, and using the “she” pronoun, you might find that awkward? So that’s the reason why the Director General knowing, the Director General knowing what your preferred pronoun is, is a good idea.
[00:24:25.470] – David Thompson
Well, if the Director general called me a woman, I would say, actually, I’m a man.
[00:24:30.090] – Benjamin Cohen
Yeah, but you wouldn’t find that at all an awkward conversation to be having?
[00:24:34.110] – David Thompson
Not really, no.
[00:24:35.490] – Benjamin Cohen
But I’m saying that. Would that be an awkward conversation if you were transgender, do you think?
[00:24:41.610] – David Thompson
I don’t know. And it’s not for me to speak on behalf of transgender people, I imagine it would be. I imagine it would be difficult.
[00:24:47.130] – Benjamin Cohen
So therefore, why not have a system in place? And as I said, best practice, I don’t think that it should be you’d be fired if you don’t do it, but just consider it to best Practice. Why would that be a bad thing because someone can opt out if they don’t want to be part of it.
[00:27:03.770] – Stephen Nolan
Stonewall have had a big influence in the public debate or lack of it on sex and gender identity issues. Sam Smith, a former BBC journalist, says she felt that the language used by Stonewall was filtering through to editorial output.
[00:27:21.050] – Sam Smith
The Style Guide advised journalists that they should refer to people as the sex of their choice. Okay, so if a man says he’s a woman, you refer to that person as a woman, in all circumstances, there don’t seem to be any exceptions to that.
[00:27:34.910] – David Thompson
So that’s essentially self-identification.
[00:27:37.730] – Sam Smith
Yeah, it’s self ID. And I mean, you have to understand, as a current affairs journalist in the regions, this wasn’t one of my targets to sort this out. My boss hadn’t asked me to kind of deal with all this stuff, but I did feel a wider responsibility to try and find out what was going on and looking at the BBC’s output, talking to some colleagues working in London where I think this is a particularly acute issue for staff working in London. I think there was significant evidence that the BBC’s language, both on the HR corporate side, if you like and certainly on that side, had been adjusted, had been changed. Words were being used that to me and not words that most people understand. Okay, so if you apply for a job in the BBC and you start to fill out the recruitment form, the form asks you whether your sex or your gender is now… is the same as the gender or sex, I can’t remember which, that you were assigned at birth. Okay? Now, believe me, when you have a baby, no one phones you up and asks you, oh, Congratulations. What sex was it assigned at birth? Okay, this is not normal language. This is not common parlance. This is political language. This is campaigning language, and it’s the campaigning language which is used by organisations who are on one particular side of that political campaign, the most prominent of which is Stonewall. And when I queried this because I did start to query some of this stuff, I was told that the BBC kind of checked this with Stonewall and Stonewall were fine. They were fine with it, and therefore the BBC was fine with it.
[00:29:18.170] – Stephen Nolan
How has the BBC got itself in the position where rather than making decisions for itself, it is taking what Stonewall tell us. I thought all these managers in this organisation were in this organisation to take decisions on behalf of licence fee payers, not to defer them to a lobby group outside of the BBC who have one particular agenda, their agenda.
[00:29:43.070] – Sam Smith
If an organisation starts to adopt the language, I mean, particularly clearly, a media organisation starts to adopt the language of a political campaigning position, and it is in our editorial as well. So you see the word ‘cis’, for example, ‘Cis’ is a word used by one side of this particular political campaign to make women sort of a subset, biological women, a subset of woman as an identity. And people on the other side of this argument really object to that. They find that word ‘cis’ incredibly offensive.
[00:30:20.450] – Stephen Nolan
Does the BBC now use the term ‘cis’?
[00:30:23.810] – Sam Smith
I’ve seen it in our editorial. Yeah, I’ve seen it on our website. I see it on our website.
[00:30:28.130] – Stephen Nolan
Are we using it because Stonewall told us to?
[00:30:30.110] – David Thompson
Maybe we could find out if the BBC would answer our Freedom of Information… this is presumably we’re going to get with this stuff is exactly what the advice was from Stonewall. Were they saying in editorial output, you should no longer use these terms and you should use these terms. And there has been a shift in BBC language. For example, if you see in BBC copy now, it says LGBTQ plus, which is something that is quite new. Whether they asked for it or whether it’s bled through. But that’s not being used in editorial output by the BBC.
[00:31:02.030] – Stephen Nolan
When a manager in here puts it in black and white, Stonewall are the experts, then how can the BBC say its relationship with Stonewall does not affect the editorial because the BBC is saying out loud Stonewall are the experts. Therefore, most journalists in the BBC are going to be less likely to challenge what Stonewall is saying because management are saying they’re the experts, they know what they’re doing. Well, guess what. Here’s what the Nolan show is saying: we are going to be as curious and test Stonewall as we would any other body. So we’re not accepting they’re the experts. We are questioning everything they do. And we’re questioning this very close relationship that the BBC has with Stonewall.
[00:31:49.070] – Sam Smith
Yeah. And I think it comes back to something I think David just said, which is it’s a journalist job to question everything. And if someone claims to be an expert on something, well, you’ve got to test that. You’ve got to see the evidence. And, like you, I would expect every journalist in the BBC to be questioning all of this every day and every opportunity.
[00:32:11.930] – Stephen Nolan
It must be frightening. If you’ve got the BBC in a relationship with Stonewall, it must be frightening for a lot of journalists to try to get in the middle of that.
[00:32:19.730] – Sam Smith
I do hope that somebody very senior in the BBC stands up and addresses this whole issue really head on and really directly, because I just think quite a lot of people, even seasoned journalists, won’t understand that when Tim Davie talks about impartiality and independence, that includes this area as well. This is not exempt. This is not that we’ve already decided that this is right side of history to accept a man who says he’s a woman actually is a woman, right? That’s not been decided. It’s not been decided in law. There hasn’t been a big public debate about it. And so the BBC shouldn’t have already settled on that. And I think a lot of people in the BBC think it has been settled and it hasn’t been settled.
[00:33:06.590] – Voiceover
The BBC acts independently in all our aspects of our operations, from HR policy to editorial guidelines and content. We aim to be industry leading on workforce inclusion and take advice from a range of external organisations. However, we make the final decision on any BBC policies or practices ourselves. We are not a member of Stonewall. We do not take legal advice from Stonewall, and we do not subscribe to Stonewall’s campaigning. The charity simply provides advice that we are able to consider. As a broadcaster, we have our own values and editorial standards. These are clearly set out and published in our editorial guidelines. We are also governed by the Royal Charter and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.
[00:33:49.590] – Extract
What are the different gender identities?
[00:33:51.810] – Extract
That’s a really, really exciting question to ask. There are so many gender identities, so we know we’ve got male and female, but there are over 100, if not more, gender identities.
[00:34:05.490] – Stephen Nolan
We asked the BBC specific questions about this educational video. They failed to answer any of our questions in their statement. We are aware of a statement that they’ve issued previously in which they said the Big Talk film was only available on the BBC Teach website, where they pointed out that that was for teachers to use for curriculum support. And they said it was never aimed directly at pupils and was never intended to be used independently by them at any age. Nor did it form part of our current lockdown learning offer, they had said at the time. But of course, children were featured in that video. Children were being told in that video, so that video must have been at least relatable to children, and teachers might very well have shown it to children. The BBC had said in a previous statement the content was clearly labelled as requiring advanced viewing by teachers, but it came with the BBC brand on it. This was a BBC educational tool. And they had said previously, and why did they not put this in their current statement? But they had said previously that they were aware in their view, that the particular film was being willfully misrepresented by parts of the media and others on social media. And they said they had withdrawn it. They didn’t use the word withdrawn. They actually said in a previous statement, they had made the decision to quote, “retire” the film.
[00:36:06.070] – David Thompson
Right. So the BBC Style Guide
[00:36:14.290] – David Thompson
Well, this gets to the heart of all of what we’ve been doing. Has Stonewall’s influence affected the BBC’s editorial? We’ve heard in this podcast about how the Diversity and Inclusion unit are influenced by Stonewall and would use Stonewall’s resources and use Stonewall language when they’re talking stuff. Now our understanding is that when the BBC Style Guide was being updated, Diversity and Inclusion had an input.
[00:36:41.110] – Stephen Nolan
Diversity and Inclusion?
[00:36:42.610] – David Thompson
Yes. So diversity inclusion has always been an internal matter, it’s about HR. But Diversity and Inclusion has an input into the BBC Style Guide, the language we use.
[00:37:07.810] – David Thompson
Into the language we use, particularly on this issue around sex and gender and sexuality and all of these different terms. So there’s a piece in The Spectator and it’s entitled to “The BBC’s Woke Guide to Gender,” and they’re very critical of some of the way the BBC defines some of these terms. And the key one is around the definition of homosexual.
[00:37:29.530] – Stephen Nolan
So the BBC has in its official paperwork how it defines homosexual.
[00:37:34.150] – David Thompson
Yes. So we’ve got that. We’ve got the new style guide. There’s been a lot of fuss over this that has been mentioned for a long time. It’s now come out. And the BBC say homosexual means people of either sex who are attracted to people of their own gender, but take care of how you use it. People may think their own gender.
[00:37:52.012] – Stephen Nolan
… their own gender?
[00:37:52.390] – David Thompson
Yeah. Most people who listen to that might not notice that, but that’s very significant in this whole debate. Attracted to people of their own gender because a lot of gay people will say it’s not about gender at all, it’s about sex. They’re same sex attracted. What the Spectator piece is arguing is that it’s very similar to the language that Stonewall uses. Now, the question here is all along we’ve been wondering how Stonewall had input into the BBC’s output and the language that we use, and while we can’t say for certain, they definitely did, we know that…
[00:38:25.090] – Stephen Nolan
Because the BBC won’t disclose any of its conversations between itself and Stonewall, right.
[00:38:31.630] – David Thompson
We haven’t been allowed to see that. They’re not going to give us that. They made that really clear.
[00:38:36.070] – Stephen Nolan
Thompson, don’t be so kind to BBC with that. We haven’t been allowed to see it. The public haven’t been allowed to see it. We asked for it on behalf of the public. The BBC said no, public you ain’t seeing it, despite the fact that your licence fee payers. So they’ve shut the public out from seeing it.
[00:38:52.330] – David Thompson
In that allies meeting that we listened to earlier in the podcast. You’ll hear the Diversity and Inclusion trainer and the BBC allies came talking about the language guide. What wasn’t said was that they actually had an input to it.
[00:39:22.510] – David Thompson
I’ve spoken to lots of people here really annoyed that Diversity and Inclusion people would be allowed into something so sensitive, because there is a perception that Diversity and Inclusion’s thinking on all of this stuff is too close to Stonewall’s thinking.
[00:39:37.690] – Stephen Nolan
And we now know that one of the trainers from Diversity and Inclusion was using the Genderbread person, which in itself has a bias.
[00:39:47.170] – David Thompson
And we also know that Diversity and Inclusion described Stonewall on behalf of the BBC as the experts in this area. The way the Spectator summed this up is, they say, a complete coincidence, no doubt that the BBC’s language matches up with out of Stonewall.
[00:40:04.390] – Stephen Nolan
We went back to the BBC to ask them about the style guide. We asked: were Stonewall consulted by any part of the BBC about the language used in this style guide? Were Stonewall definitions used elsewhere in the BBC considered when drafting this style guide. How does the BBC explain its definitions being closer to those used by Stonewall than the dictionary definition? We also ask them about the allies training and about the use of the “genderbread” person. What did they do? They just referred us to their previous statement. An organisation that asks many, many people every second of every day to appear on its outlets across the world couldn’t find a human being to speak to its own organisation on this podcast and to you, the audience. Not one living, breathing human being could speak. All we got was a reference to the previous statement.
[00:42:19.930] – David Thompson
Just one thing to point out why this is important and why this language is important to us as journalists. You know how tricky it is when we’re doing these debates. And we’ve debated the very issue of whether or not it’s transphobic for a gay person, to not to want to date a trans person, for example. Well, if you go by the BBC style guide that’s closed off, that’s decided. Homosexuality, according to the BBC, is about people who are attracted to people of the same gender. So that controversial debate is now summed up in the BBC style guide, and they’ve made their position really clear.
[00:42:53.570] – Stephen Nolan
So basically the BBC is stating as fact because it’s changed this language. If a gay male in the BBC’s wording now, that means they’re attractive, not to someone with male genitalia, but to someone also who says, I’m a man, whether you have a vagina and breasts or not.
[00:43:14.870] – David Thompson
Yeah, it’s obviously not just about the genitalia. A lot of people will say that, but it’s about the sex of the person, the natal sex, how they were born, the entire package, if you want. So people are same sex attracted, not according to the BBC anymore. Homosexual means people of either sex are attracted to people of their own gender.
[00:43:35.090] – Stephen Nolan
The other big question here is who signed off on this? Because if this is affecting the language throughout the organisation, then someone very, very senior must be signing off on this.
[00:43:49.490] – David Thompson
These decisions are signed off by BBC News.
[00:43:59.730] – David Thompson
This is an area of contention as well. Many bisexual people would say it’s about being attracted to both sexes. BBC now define bisexual an adjective to describe someone who is romantically and / or sexually attracted to more than one gender.
[00:44:20.890] – Stephen Nolan
So the BBC has now redefined the definition of bisexuality.
[00:44:25.390] – David Thompson
And homosexuality. So they’ve redefined sexuality to make it more about gender than sex, right at the heart of this whole debate.
Want to read more? The transcripts for all 10 episodes are available