Transgender rights: Stephen Nolan challenges impartiality of training session for BBC journalists

The BBC says it has removed training materials for trainee journalists which urges them to become activists for transgender rights.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 5:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 5:35 pm

The corporation made the statement after the Nolan Show reported concerns from a trainee journalist that the training session - provided by an outside transgender rights charity - was in conflict with the BBC code on impartiality.

Speaking on the show this morning, Stephen Nolan said that BBC staff “are not protestors they are journalists and... if these new impressionable young trainees are being told at the beginning of their BBC careers to be lobbyists - how is your news impartial?”

He added: “The BBC has admitted to the Nolan Show when we brought this to them yesterday that this is against their charter and editorial rules.”

BBC broadcaster Stephen Nolan challenged the BBC on the materials used for trainees.

The outside group which provided the training is a transgender charity which ran a training course for BBC trainees, Global Butterlfies. It reportedly encouraged them to use “their magical ally powers to access influencers and influence politicians” the Show reported.

Last year after a special Nolan investigation, the BBC stopped paying LGBT lobby group Stonewall for advice after the show raised questions about the corporation’s impartiality on sex and gender issues.

Mr Nolan said that just last year the BBC published a ten point plan focussed on impartiality.

The trainee told the Nolan Show he was in a BBC training session on trans and non-binary inclusivity.

“During that session we were given a lot of different points of how allies could sort of use their influence to affect trans rights for people, and one of the slides was headlined - with your magical powers of being an ally.

“And it wasn’t until we got further down that slide that I realised that it talked about using your influence on politicians to affect change which was sort of the main point that they were trying to get a across.”

The slide said that trainees should access influencers, change the minds of the media and influence politicians.

At this stage the trainee had been already taught about the importance of impartiality.

“The second you join the BBC impartiality is hammered into you and how we can’t influence people and you always have to be neutral.. so as soon as I saw that I was thinking - well how is that impartial?”

The training slide said: “An ally uses their privilege what ever that may be eg wealth, seniority, ethnicity, connections, social status, etc to access influencers for example leaders, celebrities - change the minds of the media, influence politicians, write or share stories and articles and tell people what is happening.”

Towards the end a slide was shown with a gathering of people with placards.

The trainee added: “And I thought, it looks like a protest surely? And they said ‘don’t be afraid to protest’. Now at that point I immediately threw a red flag in my mind because I knew that during my impartiality training ... that we couldn’t attend protests, this was very clear.”

A BBC person was in the training session and at no point interjected and reminded the trainees of their obligation to impartiality, he said.

Malcolm Clarke from the LGB alliance told the Nolan Show: “It is as if the BBC has learned nothing from the complaints about the way that they engaged with Stonewall.

At last count, he said were ten different organisations who go into the BBC now to give transgender advice and they all sing off “the Stonewall song sheet”.

He added: “They all say the same thing about the equality act, they all urge people to take a particular stance on the meaning of biological sex versus gender identity.”

He said his organisation is concerned that there is “a sort of push back from the BBC to continue to push the same agenda as Stonewall”.

And he is concerned that women and gay people who may take a different stance on transgender issues now feel that “they can’t speak out because these groups have now encouraged staff to think that the viewpoint our organisation takes - that biological sex transphobic”.

A BBC spokesperson told the News Letter: “This is a voluntary course and includes generic training materials provided by a third party, but the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines are sacrosanct, our staff know this and they understand their responsibilities. The slide in question has not been included previously and will be removed for any future sessions.”