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BBC Pride activists demand right to vet transgender news stories on Radio 4’s Today programme

BBC Pride activists demand right to vet transgender news stories on Radio 4’s Today programme after host Justin Webb clashed with Pink News CEO over Stonewall’s stance on single-sex spaces

  • Members want to attend crucial meetings and play a role in ‘editorial processes’ 
  • Today item on Stonewall’s Diversity Champions didn’t feature transgender guest
  • Producers had asked Stonewall to field a representative, but the charity declined
  • Benjamin Cohen, of LGBT website Pink News, was invited onto the show instead
  • Interview became heated when Webb questioned position on single-sex toilets 

Activists at the BBC are demanding the right to vet transgender news stories before they are aired on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme.

Members of the BBC’s Pride Board, which comprises LGBT staff, want to attend commissioning meetings and play a role in ‘editorial processes’ on the show, according to documents seen by The Mail on Sunday.

Their demand was made a week after Today ran an item about Stonewall’s controversial Diversity Champions scheme for employers, which did not feature a transgender guest.

Producers had asked Stonewall to field a representative, but it declined, so Benjamin Cohen, the chief executive of the LGBT website Pink News, was invited on to the programme instead.

The interview became heated when presenter Justin Webb questioned Stonewall’s position on the fight by female campaigners to retain single-sex spaces such as toilets.

A Radio 4 interview became heated when presenter Justin Webb (pictured) questioned Stonewall’s position on the fight by female campaigners to retain single-sex spaces such as toilets

Mr Cohen criticised the journalist for failing to invite ‘a single trans voice’ on to the show, and lambasted him for daring to discuss the issue despite not being trans himself. 

The charge prompted the host to reply testily: ‘Number one, you don’t know anything about me. Number two, I asked you a question, so would you answer it?’

On June 16, eight days after the interview, the BBC Pride Board accused the programme of ‘poor reporting, poor representation and not knowing the facts’.

Minutes of its meeting state a BBC ‘diversity and inclusion’ officer had encouraged staff to officially complain about the broadcast.

The board also consulted a colleague with a transgender son about discussing the ‘impact of these types of negative news stories’ with him. 

The meeting said members should approach Today editor Owenna Griffiths to ‘discuss the significant negative impact of this piece on staff at a time when we are trying to be more diverse’.

The minutes add: ‘We would like to pre-empt these issues by being involved in commissioning meetings. Editorial processes are in place – how do we get involved with these?’

Last night, Toby Young, of the Free Speech Union, said: ‘It’s extremely alarming that a group of LGBT activists within the BBC think they can dictate how Stonewall is covered by the Corporation. 

‘There is a bust of George Orwell outside the BBC’s headquarters with the quote, ‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’ The BBC would do well to remind its Pride Board of those words.’

Members of the BBC's Pride Board, which comprises LGBT staff, want to attend commissioning meetings and play a role in 'editorial processes' on the show

Members of the BBC’s Pride Board, which comprises LGBT staff, want to attend commissioning meetings and play a role in ‘editorial processes’ on the show

The BBC declined to comment on the board meeting but insisted the Today programme had complete editorial independence.

Meanwhile, the BBC has arranged for some of its stars to receive training from a transgender lobby group about gender identity, the use of pronouns and ‘challenges for the trans community’. 

The training will be conducted by Global Butterflies, which has opposed feminist groups which want to retain women-only spaces.

The organisation gave a talk in April at St Paul’s Girls’ School in West London, in which staff were reportedly told that there were at least 150 genders. 

Pupils at the £26,000-a-year school subsequently asked for the ‘too binary’ position of head girl to be replaced with the more inclusive title of head of school.

One BBC presenter said: ‘We would like to know who commissions the training groups and on what basis.’ The BBC declined to say how much the hour-long training session cost.

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