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Consequences? For Our Actions?

Queer Media Workers Have Had Enough of the BBC and Their Anti-LGBTQ Nonsense

LONDON- MAY, 2019: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) headquarters building on Portland Place
Willy Barton / Shutterstock.com

The fallout continues from the British Broadcasting Company’s (BBC) irresponsible publication of the editorial, ‘We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women’.

As if the fact that the transphobic implication of the title weren’t enough, the BBC stood behind the article and claimed it was reviewed “rigorously,” right as one of the sources quoted in the article went on an online tirade calling for the extermination of trans people altogether, while a trans woman who spoke to the article’s writer was left out altogether.

Now, people working at the British organization have had enough. According to VICE News and reporter Ben Hunte, who was the BBC’s first and only LGBT correspondent, reports that at least five LGBTQ staff members have left since it was published in late October, and an internal “listening session” held last week did little to assuage the backlash, as a recording from it was received by Hunte.

Hunte added on Twitter that even beyond those that have already quit, the BBC should expect more to turn in their resignation letters in the coming days as well. Former employees called for as much from their ex-colleagues.

The damning report reveals, among other things, that despite management’s swift defense of the article, BBC staff walked out the day the article was published. Several people left or began the process of leaving even prior to the article’s publication, for reasons unrelated to, but highlighted by, it. A non-binary ex-staffer told VICE News, they could not be their “authentic self inside or outside of the workplace” because of transphobia.

Further, one employee said to management at the meeting that “I know about eight trans people that left the organisation in the past 12 months because they don’t believe that the BBC is impartial anymore.”

Phil Harrold, who represented the BBC’s director-general’s office at the meeting, offered no response or explanation during the 90-minute dragging.

To make matters even worse, the BBC finally confirmed rumors, initially reported by Hunte weeks ago, on the same day: they’re terminating a LGBTQ inclusion work program they were part of with the United Kingdom charity group Stonewall. 

Stonewall condemned the organization’s decision, saying it was “a shame.” BBC claimed in a statement that their exit from the program is to quell questions about their “impartiality” from anti-LGBTQ advocates.

Guardian columnist Owen Jones summed it up as “A chilling day for LGBTQ people in Britain.”

Following the backlash amid Hunte’s reporting, management decided to have yet another listening session. This time, director-general Tim Davies and other managers did attend, and also did a lot of talking. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t go over better.

An employee told Hunte, “It was an absolute car crash,” as “The bosses spoke a lot – but didn’t really say anything. A trans colleague noted we were 40mins in but no trans people had spoken.”

Jones said that a source told him that BBC’s director of news, Frans Unsworth, declared that “Journalism is not a scientific endeavour, it is an artistic endeavour.”

Despite the attempts by the BBC to defend the article’s veracity even to their own staff, they have not quelled the controversy.

Since the BBC is chartered by the Crown and paid for largely with an annual licensing fee charged to British households and distributors, the fall out could start to hurt them financially, especially as they engage in a battle with the government over how much they collect with the fee over the next few years.

The anti-LGBTQ curve they appear to be on could be to protect their bottom line now, but it is almost certainly going to hurt them down the road, based on the trajectory the organization is on now.

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