Ofcom’s Chief Executive has compared people who disagree with radical gender ideology to “racists” during a discussion about BBC impartiality.
Dame Melanie Dawes suggested to the Commons Culture Select Committee that it is “extremely inappropriate” for those who believe biological sex cannot be changed to be included in TV or radio debates around transgenderism.
She was responding to comments made by SNP MP John Nicolson, a former BBC presenter, who complained that by attempting to bring balance to debates, the BBC was ‘attacking’ trans people.
Nicolson had asked what could be done to prevent the BBC from “calling in transphobic groups like the so-called LGB Alliance to give a counter argument”.
In her response, Dame Melanie said repeatedly that Ofcom had been taking advice from pro-trans lobby group Stonewall on how to bring ‘balance’ to debates on transgenderism.
“What we’re going to try to do is engage with Stonewall who are actually really expert on this, and who’ve raised this actively with us.
“I’ve spoken to the chief executive myself – and make sure that we give the right information to our broadcasters so that they can steer their way through these debates without causing offence, and without bringing inappropriate voices to the table on questions like this.”
The quango head continued: “There have been some occasions where we have been told, and I haven’t seen the programmes myself, where in order to provide balance on trans issues, people who are opposed to the issues in principle are seen as giving balance to that debate.
“As Mr Nicolson said, we would never accept people saying that racism was OK in a debate about race. It’s about making sure that we do that balance in an appropriate way, recognising that there are a lot of views around this.”
BBC journalist John McManus questioned Ofcom’s ability to fairly regulate the BBC whilst also participating in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.
Have I got this right? @stonewalluk whose claims, like any other pressure group, should be fairly challenged in the media, is going to advise @Ofcom (which regulates the #BBC and is a member of Stonewall’s workplace scheme) on which other pressure groups @bbcnews can feature. 🤔 https://t.co/TVA9XSiHpx
— John McManus 📺🎙📡 (@JohnMcM1) December 15, 2020
Dame Melanie was challenged on her remarks by Damian Green MP, a former Channel 4 news reporter, who said: “You seem to agree with the proposition that anyone who disagrees with any aspect of the current orthodox trans rights position is the equivalent of an old-fashioned racist.
an inappropriate position for a senior regulator
“The most famous person who agrees with that is JK Rowling. I find it slightly odd that a broadcasting regulator has effectively said that JK Rowling and women who think like her are the equivalent of old-fashioned racists.”
He added: “You did seem to be suggesting that women like JK Rowling were just beyond the pale, they’re not allowed to enter the debate. I think that’s probably an inappropriate position for a senior regulator.”
Dame Melanie claimed her comments had been “mischaracterised”.
The Christian Institute’s Ciarán Kelly said the comments from the head of the broadcasting regulator were “very troubling”.
“We have just seen the High Court halt the NHS’s experimental use of puberty blockers on gender-confused children, and the Women and Equalities Committee is asking people for their views on making legal sex changes easier. This is a live and highly contentious debate.
“So it is very troubling that Ofcom seems to want to shut down one side of that debate, and silence the voices of already little-heard detransitioners such as Keira Bell, or the women standing up for their sex-based rights.
“Given Dame Melanie’s repeated citing of Ofcom’s ‘engagement’ with Stonewall , many people will be questioning how much influence the pro-trans lobby is having on the policy and programming decisions of our broadcasters.”