The BBC announced today that it is the latest organization to discontinue controversial LGBT charity Stonewall’s Diversity Champion program.
It comes in the wake of Ofcom, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and others who are quitting the scheme.
Diversity Champions is a program where companies sign up and pay for advice from Stonewall on creating an inclusive environment for LGBT employees.
But it has recently been embroiled in controversy after CEO Nancy Kelley claimed that “gender-critical” beliefs — the belief that one’s biological sex cannot be changed — were like anti-Semitism.
A BBC spokesperson confirmed: ‘The BBC is fully committed to being a leading employer on LGBTQ+ inclusion. We are proud of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans colleagues and we support them to have fulfilling careers at the BBC.
Together with many other UK employers, the BBC has participated in Stonewall’s Diversity Champions program to support our goal of creating a fully inclusive workplace. Over time, however, our participation in the program has led some to question whether the BBC can be impartial in reporting on public policy debates in which Stonewall plays an active role.
“After careful consideration, we believe it is time to step back from the Diversity Champions program and also no longer participate in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.
BBC declined to confirm but said ID didn’t ‘subscribe to Stonewall campaigns’
Stonewall’s Nancy Kelley Claimed ‘Gender Critical’ Beliefs Were Like Anti-Semitism
Stonewall’s Diversity Champions is a program where companies sign up and pay for Stonewall’s advice on creating an inclusive environment for LGBT employees
“To be part of the Diversity Champions programme, the BBC has never had to support Stonewall’s campaigns or its policy positions. 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 subject to the Royal Charter and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. Our journalists, as always, continue to cover a full range of perspectives on stories.
“While the BBC is not renewing its participation in the Diversity Champions programme, we will continue to work in the future with a range of outside organisations, including Stonewall, on relevant projects to support our LGBTQ+ workforce.”
Stonewall said it was ‘a shame’ that the BBC had abandoned the plan, adding a stark statement: ‘Many of the arguments against transgender people are simply recycled homophobia from the ’80s and ’90s.
“We all remember hearing that gays were predators and lesbians were a threat in same-sex spaces.
“That didn’t apply to lesbians, bisexuals and gays then, and it doesn’t apply to transgenders now.”
Matthew Parris, the journalist and former MP who co-founded Stonewall in 1989, accused the group this year of “getting caught up in the trans issue” and “cornered into an extremist stance.”
Last month, a BBC source told VICE News: ‘BBC bosses feel they cannot allow the organization to be affiliated with Stonewall in any way because the BBC must be ‘impartial in the lives of LGBT people’.
“So the current plan is to quietly get out of the scheme, by simply not renewing their membership. I’m super afraid of this shifting back to supporting LGBT employees.’
At least eight major organizations have abandoned the Stonewall group’s controversial plan
Presented to employees as part of an internal BBC course co-developed with the lobbying group, this image shows sex as a spectrum and defines gender identity as ‘how you feel about yourself’
BBC’s impending departure comes after others, including Ofcom’s exiting program
People supporting the Stonewall organization during Pride in London in July 2015
Ofcom is said to have been concerned that the settlement could endanger its own reputation with Stonewall.
A source said Ofcom looked into whether its relationship with Stonewall constituted “a conflict or risk of perceived bias”, adding: “It is the right decision to withdraw from the Diversity Champions program in light of this. ‘
The Equality and Human Rights Commission also decided earlier this year not to renew its membership, as it did not offer the best value for money.
Sources at Ofcom said it had now “laid the groundwork” to improve support for LGBT colleagues and was confident it could “possibly move forward” beyond the Stonewall plan.
But it remains in the charity’s Workplace Equality Index, a benchmark tool for employers.
Robbie de Santos, Director of Communications and Campaigns at Stonewall, said: ‘Our work with the BBC is focused on helping build an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace for its employees, and does not in any way affect their impartiality.
‘Supporting LGBTQ+ people in the workplace should not be seen as a political or controversial act.’