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BBC Boss Tim Davie Says Broadcaster Must “Be Nice” Amid “Whipped Up” Trans Rights Debate

The BBC has a duty to “be nice” amid the fraught debate about transgender rights, according to the UK broadcaster’s director general.

Tim Davie told lawmakers on Wednesday that the BBC’s detractors were attempting to whip up a “deeply damaging” narrative around the corporation’s output on gender identity issues.

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He was giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee amid concern over a BBC complaint unit ruling against Radio 4 Today show presenter Justin Webb last month.

Webb was deemed to have broken editorial rules when he said “trans women, in other words males” during an item discussing whether biological males have an advantage in chess.

Davie was asked by Conservative MP Damian Green if the BBC was being “infused” by transgender ideology following the ruling against Webb.

The director general said BBC journalists are “doing a very good job” in difficult circumstances, but argued that Webb was guilty of “foot fault” in his language during the August 2023 broadcast.

David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, added in evidence to MPs that it was “unfortunate” that Webb didn’t “define his terms” more specifically.

“Had he said ‘biological male’ or ‘born male’ then it wouldn’t have been a problem. But as you know, it’s a very sensitive subject for trans women to be called male rather than female,” Jordan said.

“We need to steer very carefully through that difficult debate [and] make sure that we are not offending either side of it.”

Davie added: “We don’t have no-go areas in the BBC. To do that, we do demand of our journalists [that they] keep within the editorial guidelines. They’re not overly restrictive, they’re not one side … the other thing is we have to be kind and caring in this, and listening to people and be nice.”

He said the BBC was “holding the center of the ring” on gender identity reporting and its coverage was subject to unprecedented scrutiny.

The Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday that BBC employees had written to Davie “in their droves to express dismay” at the way Webb had been treated.

Davie said: “I read an article this morning [saying] I was being deluged [with staff complaints]. I’ve had under a handful of emails. I mean, let’s get real here. This is being whipped up around us in a way that is deeply, deeply damaging to civilized debate.”

Jordan also admitted that the BBC “should have made clearer” the transgender status of Scarlet Blake, who was jailed for life last month for a murder she carried out after watching Netflix documentary Don’t F*** With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer.

She was initially described by the BBC as a woman, without referencing that she was transgender. “When you’re talking about a trans woman who has committed a crime of that sort, you do need to make clear what her status was at the time that the crime was committed,” Jordan said.

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