BBC withdraws from Stonewall LGBT diversity scheme

The BBC has announced it is withdrawing from a diversity scheme run by an LGBT charity, citing reasons of impartiality.

The broadcaster said in a statement that it will not be renewing its participation in the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme but said it will continue to work with a range of organisations to support its LGBT staff.

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.

“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.”

“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.”

More than 900 organisations in the UK have signed up to the scheme, which aims to promote inclusion in the workplace.

It was described by Stonewall as “the leading employers’ programme for ensuring all LGBTQ+ staff are free to be themselves in the workplace”.

Following the announcement, Stonewall said the BBC’s decision is “a shame”.

In a statement, the charity said: “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, organisations 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.”

Stonewall said the announcement comes in the wake of organised attacks in the workplace and it is “shocking” that companies are being pressured into rolling back support for LGBT employees.

“Ultimately, it is LGBTQ+ people who suffer,” it said.

Multiple organisations including the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Ofcom and a number of Government departments have also previously withdrawn their memberships from the scheme.

A spokesperson from the EHRC said: “As a publicly funded organisation we have to ensure that we are making the best choices when it comes to our budget.

“We have extensive expertise in this area and concluded that, for us, the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme did not constitute best value for money.

“Therefore we chose not to renew our membership.

“We remain committed to creating an inclusive workplace that will attract people from all backgrounds, where all of our colleagues will thrive and where all LGBT employees are accepted without exception.”

Media watchdog Ofcom said that taking part in the scheme “poses a conflict or risk of perceived bias”.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) also withdrew from the scheme.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “Last year we conducted a full assessment of all our diversity and inclusion memberships and Stonewall was one of those we decided to not renew.

“We informed Stonewall of our decision in October 2021.”