BBC journalist of 26 years quits after grievance hearing over transgender comments

The LGBT lobby

Published 9 March 2024
- By Editorial Staff
The BBC has strict rules on what opinions its employees can express.

A former BBC journalist reveals that she was forced into a disciplinary hearing after writing several posts about transgender people in which she stated that there is no scientific support for the idea that “men can be women”.

Despite the journalist’s defiance, her boss demanded that she take down the posts and “admit” that she was wrong – or risk further disciplinary action.

About two years ago, Cath Walton wrote a series of posts on Twitter criticizing the term “cis woman”, arguing that women then become a kind of subcategory of the term “woman”.

“Contrasting ‘trans women’ and ‘cis women’ is in effect accepting that males can be women, thus expressing an entire belief system which as yet has no scientific support”, she wrote on Twitter at the time.

Now she reveals that her boss at the BBC contacted her after just an hour and asked her to take down the posts because they breached the state broadcaster’s social media and opinion rules. When she refused to take them down, she was called to a disciplinary hearing where she was told again that she had to take them down and also “admit to the bosses that I was wrong and that I would never do it again”. Again, she refused, stating that everything she had said was in fact true and that no one had been able to identify a single untrue opinion she had expressed in public.

Demanding a retraction

“It eventually turned into a grievance hearing, and the outcome was revealing. Accuracy and impartiality are not the same, I was told: something can be entirely accurate but raise a question as to impartiality”, she wrote in an article in The Critic Magazine.

Later, however, Walton relented and told her boss that she was willing to take down the posts, but apparently that was not enough.

“I was told to admit to managers that I’d been wrong and would never do it again, or the disciplinary would proceed”.

Ms. Walton did not agree, as she did not believe she had done anything wrong in writing the posts. The disciplinary case was eventually dropped because no one could explain what part of her post was untrue. However, Walton decided to leave her job at the BBC shortly afterwards, after 26 years.

“Had to tell”

The reason she decided to speak out about the incident is because BBC Radio 4 presenter Justin Webb broke the rules of “impartiality” after saying “trans women, in other words men” on air.

– I knew I had to tell this story as soon as the ruling about Justin came out. These conversations about how and when we should tell the truth about sex and gender are very live in the back rooms of all broadcasters, not just the BBC, she told The Telegraph.

She now hopes her story will make people aware of where the BBC stands on these issues, and that it makes it difficult for journalists to talk about when to limit their words.

“How is a presenter or reporter to explain why there is a controversy at all about trans-identified men in, say, women’s sports or prisons, if they are unable to say that they are male? It should be a requirement, not a punishable offence”.

The BBC has not commented on Walton’s remarks.

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