Britain’s media watchdog Ofcom has been widely criticised for cutting ties with LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall because of a “risk of perceived bias”.
The Office of Communications, a communications regulator otherwise known as Ofcom, announced that it would be pulling out of the Stonewall diversity champions scheme in a statement on Wednesday (25 August).
Ofcom claimed that it would no longer take part in the scheme, described by the charity as “the leading employers’ programme for ensuring all LGBT+ staff are accepted without exception in the workplace”, for two reasons.
Firstly that it had “laid the foundations” for support for LGBT+ staff members and so its participation in the programme was no longer necessary, and secondly that its “relationship with Stonewall poses a conflict or risk of perceived bias”.
In recent years, Stonewall has received relentless backlash from anti-trans campaigners over its emphatic support for trans rights, and in May this year the charity said there had been a “coordinated attack” by the mainstream media on its diversity champions programme.
trans people, their lives and their rights are not “policy positions” and supporting them should not “pose a conflict or risk of perceived bias”. shame on all involved in this. it’s a fucking disgrace. https://t.co/raNRlesH8R pic.twitter.com/FF6IfmXuc3
— Ben Smoke (@bencsmoke) August 25, 2021
In response to Ofcom’s statement, Stonewall told the BBC: “We fully respect Ofcom’s decision and will continue to work with them in their role as the UK’s communication regulator.
“It is sad, however, that involvement in a programme that supports an inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ employees should be in any way regarded as an un-impartial act.
“As with every membership programme, organisations come and go depending on what works best for their inclusion journey at the time, and we’re very proud of the work we’ve done with Ofcom and wish them the best in their ongoing efforts to support all of their LGBT+ employees.
“It’s a simple human right that everyone, including LGBT+ staff, is free from discrimination and prejudice at work, and our Diversity Champions programme is one way for organisations to be supported in this.”
Ofcom have been slammed for ‘caving to a bunch of transphobe dogwhistlers’
The decision by Ofcom to withdraw from the programme over Stonewall’s “policy positions”, and its claim that working with the charity would meaning breaching its responsibility to “remain impartial and independent”, has been widely criticised.
Journalist Owen Jones wrote on Twitter: “Anti-trans activists have succeeded in pressuring Ofcom to abandon its partnership with Britain’s main LGBTQ civil rights’ organisation. We’re heading to a very ugly place.”
“The media regulator has caved to a bunch of transphobe dogwhistlers,” added gay Britain’s Got Talent winner Jamie Lambert.
“This is genuinely terrifying. Ofcom you are cowards. You can’t be impartial against bigotry.”
Actor David Paisley declared that Ofcom’s statement translated as: “We’ve thrown our LGBT+ staff under the bus and pulled away from Europe’s largest LGBT+ rights advocacy group because of some internet trolls and pressure from a right wing press and government.”
This literally reads like a paradox. "We've stopped supporting Europe's largest LGBTQ+ organisation. Our support for LGBTQ+ people is as strong as ever". Err, these things literally cancel each other out folks.
— Alexander Leon (@alexand_erleon) August 25, 2021
Anti-trans activists have succeeded in pressuring Ofcom to abandon its partnership with Britain's main LGBTQ civil rights' organisation.
We're heading to a very ugly place. https://t.co/oGSuiHSoVV
— Owen Jones 🌹 (@OwenJones84) August 25, 2021
Translation: we've thrown our LGBT+ staff under the bus and pulled away from Europe's largest LGBT+ rights advocacy group because of some internet trolls and pressure from a right wing press and government. https://t.co/WmH3er5IVh
— David Paisley (@DavidPaisley) August 25, 2021
Every day in small and large ways the British media landscape becomes more hostile to trans people. This Ofcom decision is a signal that they are on side with the worst people and every coward involved needs to take a fucking look at themselves.
— Brydie Lee-Kennedy (@BrydieLK) August 25, 2021
— Jamie Lambert (@JamieCollabro) August 25, 2021
Deeply concerning to see television regulators cave in to the demands of bigots. Transphobes won’t stop until all funding to Stonewall is stopped.
— George Aylett (@GeorgeAylett) August 25, 2021
One Twitter user pointed out the painful irony that Ofcom’s LinkedIn profile picture features the Progress Pride flag, and wrote: “Pandering to people who wish to make life [worse] for trans people completely negates your right to that flag.”