The BBC headquarters. (Getty/ Peter Macdiarmid)
LGBT+ staff are quitting the BBC because of a “hostile” environment, according to a sensational leaked recording of an internal meeting with queer employees.
The broadcaster held a meeting with the BBC Pride network on 8 November to discuss recent issues, including a heavily criticised article that suggested lesbians are being pressured into having sex with trans women.
A full recording of the 90-minute meeting was obtained by Vice. The session was “heated”, with more than 100 LGBT+ staff members turning up to discuss ongoing issues affecting the community with Phil Harrold, who runs BBC director general Tim Davie’s office.
One staff member said they know of around eight trans employees who have left the BBC over the last year because they no longer believe the broadcaster is impartial on trans issues.
The same staffer said they know somebody who walked out specifically over the recent article titled “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women”.
Another employee said their trans friends and others they know in the LGBT+ community “have lost confidence” in the broadcaster. They admitted that the recent spate of controversies has made them re-evaluate whether they should even be working for the BBC.
One staff member said: “We really need to start looking internally at ourselves as the BBC, and ask a very simple question – what the f**k are we doing?”
Non-binary staffer quit because they can’t be their ‘authentic self’
According to Vice, Harrold did not respond directly to concerns raised by BBC staff – however, a follow-up meeting has been scheduled with Davie for Friday (12 November) where the issues will be discussed again.
Employees and former staffers spoke to Vice anonymously about their experiences working at the BBC. One non-binary person said they quit their job at the broadcaster because they didn’t feel able to be their “authentic self inside or outside of the workplace”.
A gay man who is in the process of leaving his job at the BBC said he handed in his notice because he “can’t continue being complicit” as the broadcaster becomes an enemy of the LGBT+ community.
The recording was leaked shortly after the BBC confirmed that it is not renewing its membership on Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme, a scheme designed to help workplaces become more inclusive for LGBT+ staff.
The story has been met with shock and anger on social media. John Nicolson, an SNP MP and former BBC journalist, tweeted: “When I worked for the BBC it was a hostile environment for LGBT people. I’m disappointed – but given its repeated platforming of transphobes not surprised – to read this.”
When I worked for the BBC it was a hostile environment for #LGBT people. I’m disappointed – but given its repeated platforming of transphobes not surprised – to read this. https://t.co/WpSawDl0UX via @viceworldnews
— JOHN NICOLSON M.P. (@MrJohnNicolson) November 11, 2021
Trans youth charity Mermaids wrote: “Strength to all those at BBC Pride fighting the good fight. We’re in your corner.”
India Willoughby, a trans broadcaster, said stigma and hostility spread by the BBC is making trans people “unemployable”.
The BBC has faced sharp criticism over its coverage of LGBT+ issues
The BBC’s meeting with LGBT+ staff comes after weeks of controversy for the broadcaster. In October, BBC Radio Ulster host Stephen Nolan released a much-criticised podcast series seeking to “investigate” the links between the BBC and Stonewall.
Later that month, the BBC published its article suggesting that lesbians are being pressured into having sex with trans women. The story was based on a survey of just 80 people which was conducted by a member of anti-trans pressure group Get The L Out.
The BBC has faced resounding backlash and protests in London and Manchester over the article – but the controversy intensified further when it emerged that Lily Cade, a porn star who was interviewed in the piece – had called for the mass “execution” and “lynching” of trans women.
The broadcaster responded by removing Cade’s quotes from the article, but the rest of the piece remains intact. The BBC has repeatedly defended its work, saying the article went through a rigorous editorial process.
Responding to Vice‘s story, the BBC said it is “fully committed to being an industry-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,” a spokesperson said. “Although the BBC will not be renewing its participation in the Diversity Champions Programme, in the future we will continue to work with a range of external organisations, including Stonewall, on relevant projects to support our LGBTQ+ staff.”