The BBC has admitted that one of its presenters was wrong to disparage JK Rowling’s views on gender self-ID.
Following an edition of Radio 4’s Front Row, in which host Tom Sutcliffe portrayed the author’s gender critical views in a negative light, the broadcaster received nearly 600 complaints.
Sutcliffe’s comments came in a discussion with Professor of Philosophy Erich Hatala Matthes on whether it is “morally permissible” to enjoy the art of people with whom we profoundly disagree.
During the show, aired on 24 March, Sutcliffe remarked that Rowling “clearly has a very unpopular opinion regarding gender identity”.
On 26 May, responding to one of the many complaints received about the programme, the BBC accepted that Sutcliffe’s remarks were “potentially misleading”.
It upheld the complaint “because, while it had clearly proved objectionable to some, there was no conclusive evidence that the objectors represented a majority”.
The presenter appeared on Radio 4’s Feedback to address listeners’ concerns about his apparent bias.
One women said: “A very shouty minority persistently attacks Ms Rowling and misrepresents her views. Your presenter has unjustifiably added fuel to this misrepresentation.”
Another member of the public said that he “was horrified to hear Tom Sutcliffe repeatedly attack JK Rowling”. He added: “JK Rowling’s view reflects the law in England, Sutcliffe’s does not”.
Admitting that he was in the wrong, Sutcliffe said: “It’s a fair criticism to say that I left the impression that there’s only one way of thinking about these things, when in fact that is anything but the truth”.