[CONTENT WARNING: transphobia, sexual assault, death threats, the BBC]
A quick refresher: the BBC published a ridiculously transphobic article that promoted someone who called for the deaths of all transgender people. They eventually edited the article to exclude the worst of the bigotry, but a lot of transphobic content remained. I’ve written two posts about it, and the complaints I filed with the BBC, but Abe and Shaun reminded me to double-check the response to my second complaint.
I’ll spare you a full copy-paste, but suffice to say my main points were that the substance of my prior complaint was ignored, that the BBC did not consider “all transgender people are rapists” to be hate speech, and that their claim to consider all viewpoints was false since they did not consider that in an article about transgender people committing sexual assault. Here’s what they replied back with:
Thank you for getting in touch again to restate your complaint about the language used in the survey linked within the our article ‘We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women’ (url to the original article removed by moi).
The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines refer to due impartiality, which is to say the impartiality “must be adequate and appropriate to the output” and as we pointed out in our previous response, it is vital that BBC programming is able to independently explore issues impartially – including viewpoints that some audiences will consider challenging.
It is in that context that Get The L Out featured in this article, which carried a warning about strong language at the outset.
Their interest in these issues was explained to readers, as was the limitations to their survey, which was linked within the article so that readers could form their own judgements.
At this point it’s fair to argue the BBC is transphobic. This article was assessed by multiple eyes and likely had some sort of fact checking done, and their complaints team either sees nothing wrong with the published transphobia or is doing everything they can to insulate the people who crafted it from accountability. This is functionally equivalent to a well-trusted celebrity deliberately spreading hate and misinformation about transgender people, and thus the entire organization can be called transphobic even though only a minority of their employees are responsible.
I did get something wrong, though.
We recognise that you may continue to disagree with our decision to include the group and their survey within the article but this concludes Stage 1 of our complaints process. That means we can’t correspond with you further here. If you remain unhappy, you can now contact the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU). The ECU is Stage 2 of the BBC’s complaints process. You’ll need to explain why you think there’s a potential breach of standards, or if the issue is significant and should still be investigated. Please do so within 20 working days of this reply.
I’d thought my next step was Ofcom, but instead it’s another branch of the BBC. Either way, this time around I decided to keep things short and to the point; the word limit had been halved and the form stated they already had all previous correspondence, after all.
I have repeatedly mentioned the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines as justification for excluding some viewpoints; these were never considered by the complaints team, they kept asserting the need for “impartiality” even when it sanitized hate speech. I pointed out that by their own standards they were not including all relevant views, and the team’s response was to state they were. I’ve pointed out two ways to avoid the Editorial Guidelines, by either arguing transgender people are not a minority or that it is factually true that all of them are rapists, and asked for clarity on which (if any) of those is official BBC policy; that request has been ignored. The complaints team also stated that at least part of my complaint was against the methodology of a survey they linked to, when at no point has that directly or indirectly been a part of my complaint.
None of the substance of my complaint has been addressed. Instead, the complaints team have either repeatedly misunderstood or ignored that substance. That is worthy of escalation to the ECU.
I should be juuuuust under the twenty-working day deadline, but we’ll see what shakes out. In the meantime, if you sent a complaint to the BBC on this matter you might want to check your inbox. Even if you didn’t, or you’re past the deadline, Shaun points out there’s another event you could complain about. Consider doing so, as the best way we can change the culture within the BBC is to create consequences for promoting transphobia.