The BBC’s “Trans Issue”

Following news reports this evening, I have just sent this letter to Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s Director of News and Current Affairs:

Dear Kamal

I first wrote to you in March this year, when I, along with Trans Media Watch, expressed disquiet at the bias evident in the BBC’s reporting of the Harry Miller case in February, along with an attempt by a BBC producer to mislead me in order to elicit some reaction to be quickly broadcast.

In your response, you indicated that we had raised serious issues which needed investigation, and you would get back to us.

I then wrote to you in June following the amendment of a report of a cross-party letter about trans issues, which included comment for balance from someone unrelated to the story. That, and the subsequent letter from Trans Media Watch, just got a brush off from you to the media. There was no direct response to us.

To date I am still waiting for a substantive response to either of these two letters, a substantive response which was promised by you in March.

These events followed issues with the broadcast in 2017 of an hour-long documentary about a discredited Canadian doctor, clearly positioning him as a victim, repeated issues with the Woman’s Hour programme, (Jenni Murray has now admitted that she was prevented from presenting when trans issues came up because of her views), and dismissal of complaints around any broadcast which covered trans people – I cannot recall a single complaint that has been upheld by the BBC.

This evening, news broke that the News and Current Affairs team will be banned from attending Pride events because of “the trans issue”. The clear implication is that if trans people are attending those Pride events then your journalists cannot attend because, simply by attending, we make those events political.

I have seen some evidence of lobbying against any positive trans representation within the BBC. I have seen BBC staff post adversarial comments about trans people on social media with impunity, unlike other staff who have been sacked for posting similar kinds of comments about other groups of people.

I was one of the organisers of an event at Channel 4 in 2011, where Trans Media Watch launched its Memorandum of Understanding, signed by Channel 4. At that event, a representative from the BBC’s Director General said that the BBC did not need to sign it because it was already committed to the principles underpinning the MoU, which were basically to eliminate transphobia within its broadcast output and commissioning principles.

Over the last 3 years an administrative change to an existing law has been relentlessly misrepresented by the BBC as redefining the very essence of what it means to be a man or a woman. Campaigns with opaque funding have been launched with the express view of barring trans women from those women’s spaces that trans women have accessed without issue for decades. Trans people have been associated repeatedly and unfairly by BBC presenters with crime, no-platforming and silencing.

And now trans people are reportedly the reason why BBC staff cannot attend Pride events, on the basis that “the trans issue” is now political. Apparently if trans people don’t attend, then it’s fine for BBC staff to attend. This is a published part of the campaign by those opposed to trans inclusion – to separate trans people from the wider LGB communities – a campaign which, by your decisions and actions, you now clearly support. This is utterly abhorrent, and must be a clear breach of impartiality, let alone implicit discrimination under the Equality Act.

Can you not see that trans people have been made into a political issue, and that by taking the actions you have, both in the past and now, you are playing right into that political game?

I am now faced with a dilemma. My television licence expires at the end of this month – in two day’s time. I am being asked to pay for the ability to watch output from an organisation which now, in contravention of the MoU it pledged allegiance to in 2011, views me as a political issue – not a person, but an issue. For the first time in over 40 years, I am wondering why I should pay this given the now clear views of the BBC. Why should I pay you to repeatedly and continually misrepresent and dehumanise me?

Given the years of misrepresentation, and now the positioning of all trans people as a political issue, can you explain (a) why I should renew my licence and (b) what steps you are going to take to remove the political bias which has clearly now overtaken the BBC News and Current Affairs team, so we can go back to fair and accurate reporting?

Yours sincerely

Helen Belcher

One comment

  1. Bernice Elane Roust · · Reply

    I am somewhat disturbed to have become an issue!
    We are human beings who just want to get on with our own lives and protect our own human rights.

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