BBC upholds complaint against presenter who called trans women 'males' in impartiality ruling

BBC upholds complaint against presenter who called trans women 'males' in impartiality ruling

WATCH HERE: Former BBC exec Roger Bolton lets rip against BBC wokeness

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 01/03/2024

- 13:01

Updated: 01/03/2024

- 13:03

Today presenter Justin Webb made the comments on BBC Radio 4 in August 2023

The BBC has decided to uphold a complaint lodged against Today journalist Justin Webb in relation to comments he made about trans women.

In August last year, a listener of BBC Radio 4 complained to the Beeb after Webb had been discussing the decision by a sporting body to ban trans women from all-female competitions.

Webb had been discussing the decision by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) and debated whether or not biological males could have an advantage in the game.

During the broadcast in August, Webb said on air the phrase: "Trans women, in other words, males."

A complainant contacted the BBC and claimed this constituted Webb giving a personal view on the matter and that it was in breach of the corporation's impartiality guidelines.

Over six months on from the remark, the BBC’s editorial complaints unit (ECU) has upheld the complaint against Webb, releasing a lengthy explanation as to why.

Justin Webb

Justin Webb has been a familiar face and voice on the BBC for years


The ECU, via Press Gazette, said of the complaint and Webb's comments: "The ECU understood Mr Webb’s intention in using the phrase ‘trans women, in other words males’ was to underline the question arising from the FIDE guidelines but noted a press line issued at the time included an acknowledgment that his phrasing did not convey an entirely accurate impression.

"In relation to impartiality, however, the ECU considered it could only be understood by listeners as meaning that trans women remain male, without qualification as to gender or biological sex.

"And that, even if unintentional, it gave the impression of endorsing one viewpoint in a highly controversial area.

"It therefore upheld this aspect of the complaint," the BBC department signed off.


The BBC has upheld the complaint against Justin Webb


The ruling sparked controversy among listeners and licence fee payers after it was published on Thursday, with several taking to social media to blast the BBC's verdict.

One X, formerly Twitter, user fumed: "Ludicrous ruling by the BBC... Shabby treatment of an outstanding broadcaster."

"Woww. And @BBCNews have the cheek to claim they are not biased," a second hit out before another said of the corporation: "The BBC is woking themselves into insignificance."

Others said the BBC had "lost the plot" and that the corporation was "on very dodgy ground" for upholding the complaint.

Justin Webb

Justin Webb made the comments on BBC Radio 4's Today programme in August 2023


However, some welcomed the ruling, including one person who waded into the argument to say: "His own bigotries and prejudices should be nowhere near his journalistic work. They were 100% right to uphold the complaint." (sic)

This isn't the first time Webb has had a complaint upheld against him when it comes to discussing trans issues on the air.

In February 2022, the BBC ruled similarly after he'd said a university professor was "falsely" accused of "transphobia" in the previous October.

He's also come under fire after asking the Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey if there shouldn't be "spaces where biological males cannot go", referring to trans women.

The backlash to the ruling isn't the only fury the BBC has received of late with the Telegraph reporting it received 287 complaints for its coverage of a report claiming trans women's milk was as good as break milk from a biological female.

You may like