The BBC has announced its withdrawal from LGBT lobby group Stonewall’s controversial ‘Diversity Champions’ programme following questions over impartiality.
The programme tells employers how to promote LGBT ideology in the workplace, with those participating given a more favourable score on the Workplace Equality Index (WEI) – which measures how ‘LGBT-friendly’ an organisation is.
The Corporation said it would be withdrawing from the WEI as well as the Diversity Champions programme, but said it would continue to work with Stonewall and other external organisations to “support our LGBTQ+ staff”.
A statement from the BBC Press Office said: “Along with many other UK employers, the BBC has participated in Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme to support our objective to create a fully inclusive workplace.
“However, over time our participation in the Programme has led some to question whether the BBC can be impartial when reporting on public policy debates where Stonewall is taking an active role.
“After careful consideration, we believe it is time to step back from the Diversity Champions Programme and will also no longer participate in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.”
It also claimed that participating in the scheme “has never required the BBC to support the campaigns of Stonewall, nor its policy positions”, adding that its journalists “continue, as ever, to report a full range of perspectives on stories”.
Director General Tim Davie, who unveiled a ten-point impartiality plan last month, reportedly told staff it is “unquestionable” that participation in the scheme leads people to believe that “the BBC cannot be impartial when reporting on public policy debates where Stonewall is taking an active, campaigning, role”.
He added: “While I do not think that our journalism has been influenced by our involvement in the Diversity Champions programme, not renewing our involvement is the correct move at this time to minimise the risk of perceived bias and avoid any perception that engagement with the programme is influencing our own decision-making.”
The move follows intense criticism of Stonewall in recent months, including from the Corporation’s own journalists Stephen Nolan and David Thompson, who unveiled the scale of the lobby group’s influence at the BBC.
The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Communications Ciarán Kelly said the announcement was “a welcome start”, but added that the organisation “has a long way to go”.
He said: “Stonewall has been guilty of spreading inaccurate and misleading information for some time now, and while it is undoubtedly good news that the BBC is withdrawing from these schemes, Tim Davie and the rest of BBC management need to ensure this is not simply lip service.
Tim Davie and the rest of BBC management need to ensure this is not simply lip service.
“The BBC’s refusal to cut all ties leaves unanswered questions. Will Stonewall still be consulted before the broadcaster changes its style guide? Or when it reports on LGBT controversies of national significance?
“The BBC still has a long way to go before it restores public confidence in its ability to report on these issues with impartiality.”