BBC chief tells staff 'they must get used to views they disagree with'

BBC chief tells LGBT staff ‘they must get used to hearing views they don’t like’ in ‘hostile’ Zoom call amid backlash at withdrawal from controversial Stonewall scheme

  • Fran Unsworth told staff they must get used to hearing opinions they disagreed
  • She responded to questions during a Zoom call with corporation’s Pride network 
  • BBC left LGBT charity Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’s programme last week

A BBC chief told LGBT staff they will ‘hear things they do not personally like’ and they ‘have to get used to that, it has been reported. 

During a meeting with the corporation’s Pride network the broadcaster’s head of news Fran Unsworth told employees they must get used to hearing opinions they disagreed with.

It came as she responded to questions that ‘implied people should not come across views they disliked’ during a Zoom call on Friday.  

Ms Unsworth, who is set to leave her position in January, also told staff that these were the stories the corporation told to the public and they ‘could not walk away from the conversation’.

The meeting was also ‘extremely hostile’ to director general of the BBC Tim Davie, who spoke of his concerns that LGBT staff were leaving the corporation over its policies during the Zoom call, The Sunday Times reports.     

Friday’s meeting came after the BBC announced it had become the latest organisation to ditch the LGBT charity Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’s programme. 

The BBC’s head of news Fran Unsworth told employees they must get used to hearing opinions they disagreed with

Diversity Champions is a programme where companies sign up and pay for advice from Stonewall on how to create an inclusive environment for LGBT workers.

But it has been recently mired in controversy after its Chief executive Nancy Kelley claimed ‘gender critical’ beliefs – the belief that a person’s biological sex cannot be changed – were like anti-Semitism. 

A source told The Sunday Times that Ms Unsworth told staff: ‘You’ll hear things you don’t personally like and see things you don’t like — that’s what the BBC is, and you have to get used to that.’ 

Another person said: ‘Fran was totally calm but determined about it. 

‘She was reacting to questions from the network that implied people shouldn’t come across views they disliked.’ 

During the meeting Mr Davie, who was previously chairman of a lesbian, gay and bisexual working group at the BBC, told staff he would listen to their views and said it was a priority to make them feel comfortable at work.

But he was told by one employee he ‘was not in a position to make decisions on this issue, because he’s not trans’. 

A BBC spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The BBC has regular staff meetings and this meeting was constructive and useful.’

Last week the BBC confirmed it was withdrawing from Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’s programme.

It came in the wake of Ofcom, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and others quitting the scheme.          

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘The BBC is fully committed to being an industry-leading employer on LGBTQ+ inclusion. We are proud of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans colleagues and we support them to have fulfilling careers at the BBC.

The BBC recently announced it had become the latest organisation to ditch the LGBT charity Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’s programme

At least eight major organisations have left the Stonewall group’s controversial scheme

BBC’s impending departure comes after others, who include Ofcom abandoned programme

Organisations that have quit Stonewell’s scheme so far

Equality and Human Rights Commission

Ofsted

Ofcom

Cabinet Office

Channel 4

Department of Health

BBC

Ministry of Justice 

‘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.

‘Being a part of the Diversity Champions Programme has never required the BBC to support the campaigns of Stonewall, nor its policy positions. 

‘As a broadcaster, we have our own values and editorial standards – these are clearly set out and published in our Editorial Guidelines. We are also governed by the Royal Charter and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. Our journalists continue, as ever, to report a full range of perspectives on stories.

‘Although the BBC will not be renewing its participation in the Diversity Champions Programme, in the future we will continue to work with a range of external organisations, including Stonewall, on relevant projects to support our LGBTQ+ staff.’

Stonewall said it was ‘a shame’ that the BBC had left the scheme, adding in a hard-hitting statement: ‘Many of the arguments against trans people today are simply recycled homophobia from the 80s and 90s.

‘We all remember being told gay people were predators and lesbians were a threat in single-sex spaces.

‘That wasn’t true of lesbians, bi and gay people then, and it isn’t true of trans people now.’

Matthew Parris, the journalist and former MP who co-founded Stonewall in 1989, this year accused the group of becoming ‘tangled up in the trans issue’ and ‘cornered into an extremist stance’.

Last month a BBC source told VICE News: ‘BBC bosses feel that they can’t allow the organisation to be connected to Stonewall in any way, because the BBC needs to be ‘impartial on LGBT lives’.

‘So the current plan is to quietly withdraw from the scheme, by just not renewing their membership. I’m super scared about this sliding back on supporting LGBT employees.’

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