BBC ‘disappearing women’ as gender quota filled by trans guests who self-identify

·4-min read
BBC
BBC

The BBC is “disappearing women” by allowing a 50-50 quota for programme guests to be filled by those who self-identify as female, The Telegraph can reveal.

The 50:50 equality project was founded in 2017 by Ros Atkins, the BBC News presenter, and heavily promoted on the corporation's website to empower women.

It urges BBC editors to monitor the number of contributors on their programmes to gather data and set diversity benchmarks, with the aim of at least half being women.

But it has erupted in a trans row, as its methodology now says “content-makers monitor the gender identity of their contributors with the aim of featuring at least 50 per cent women – they do not monitor whether a contributor’s gender differs from their sex registered at birth".

It means trans women born as male will be counted as women, sparking a backlash from BBC staff who say the scheme has been hijacked by trans activists.

BBC staff protest about the change

A senior BBC insider told The Telegraph: “The BBC has now ‘disappeared’ women as a sex class and instead monitors ‘gender identity’. It’s redefined a word which we all understand, without any public debate, and Ros Atkins has gone along with the change.

“In this 50:50 monitoring, the BBC is still following ‘Stonewall law’ in failing to respect sex as as a protected characteristic. Sadly, the BBC still seems to be a deeply sexist organisation where these concerns raised by women are dismissed.”

The Telegraph understands that BBC staff have protested internally about the change.

Another staff member wrote this year that “50:50 doesn’t really know how many women have achieved representation (your stated goal) or men for that matter”, because its “clearly binary” data “depends on the producer’s conception of what gender is”.

The staff member reminded bosses that the “trans women are women” stance pushed by trans lobby groups “is not shared by the majority of licence fee payers”.

The furore coincides with the BBC paying Stonewall, the contentious trans charity, yearly fees for diversity training, until it quit last year.

This newspaper revealed BBC radio staff were told of 150 genders and to build their “trans brand” by declaring their pronouns in training by Global Butterflies, another group, last year.

The 50:50 project seeks to monitor benchmarks such as gender, ethnicity and disability of phone-in show callers, the reporters and experts on BBC News, people displayed in pictures and videos, the quotes on the BBC’s website and the musicians in orchestras.

BBC 'lacks basic understanding' of the issue

On Saturday, a BBC spokesman hit back, claiming that “this is clearly an attempt to generate a story where none exists”.

The spokesman added: “The BBC’s 50:50 project is a ground-breaking initiative that has significantly increased women’s representation in BBC content and has inspired others to do the same.”

But this response infuriated the senior BBC insider, who said: “It’s clear the BBC lacks basic understanding of the issue at hand,” adding: “This feels like discrimination even via the press office, being publicly scoffed at by your employer.”

The 50:50 project has expanded to include 145 partner organisations in 30 countries, spanning media, law and finance, and produces an annual BBC report.

In the most recent 2021 report, Tim Davie, the BBC director-general, boasted of a “long-term cultural shift” after no BBC team taking part had fewer than 40 per cent women after three years of monitoring.

But the insider pointed to a host of recent programmes in which women have not been represented, despite editors being told to discuss 50:50 data in regular meetings and share data across the BBC on a monthly basis.

In a Jeremy Vine discussion about women’s sports on BBC Radio 2 in June, the voices on air were four men and three trans people with no women, the insider said.

In another example, two men and two trans women discussed women’s sport in an edition of Radio 4’s Moral Maze last June

The BBC was also forced to apologise for interviewing a transgender athlete who had boasted about knocking women out, in a Radio 4 Today women’s sport segment last month.