BBC Quits Controversial Stonewall Schemes Following Investigation Over Impartiality

The BBC has quit two controversial schemes run by Stonewall, an LGBTQ+ lobby group and charity, following an investigation by one of the corporation’s own journalists.

The public service broadcaster has now followed media regulator Ofcom and fellow broadcaster Channel 4 by withdrawing from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme and Workplace Equality Index.

The news comes after BBC 5 Live journalist Stephen Nolan released a 10-part investigative podcast examining whether the schemes had influenced the BBC’s editorial output. Journalist David Thompson also contributed to the investigation.

In the podcast, Nolan and Thompson questioned whether the BBC was too close to Stonewall, providing numerous instances of BBC internal policy and editorial output that appeared to breach the corporation’s own impartiality guidelines, as well as the Equality Act 2010, following communication with Stonewall in connection with these schemes.

The podcast, which was the culmination of an eighteen month investigation, quickly rose to the top of the charts on both Apple and Spotify after its release last month and garnered numerous headlines as well as comments from members of parliament.

While the BBC restated its commitment to LGBTQ+ employees, it confirmed that it has now left the schemes.

“The BBC is fully committed to being an industry-leading employer on LGBTQ+ inclusion,” the corporation said in a statement. “We are proud of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans colleagues and we support them to have fulfilling careers at the BBC.

“Along with many other U.K. 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.”

In June, Channel 4 also announced it was pulling out of Stonewall’s diversity scheme while Ofcom quit the scheme in August.

Numerous public bodies, including the Department of Health and the U.K.’s Equality and Human Rights Commission also announced they were withdrawing from the schemes this year.

In a statement, Stonewall told Variety: “It’s a shame that the BBC has decided not to renew their membership of our Diversity Champions programme, but as with all membership programmes, organizations come and go depending on what’s best for their inclusion journey at the time. We will continue to engage with the BBC on a number of fronts to champion support for LGBTQ+ colleagues and to represent our communities through their reporting.”

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