BBC upholds complaint against Today presenter Justin Webb for calling trans women ‘males’

The BBC has upheld a complaint against one of their presenters, Justin Webb, who called transgender women “males.”

The broadcaster upheld a claim that the Today Programme presenter breached its impartiality rules after he made an anti-trans comment in August.

While discussing a policy change by governing body the International Chess Federation (FIDE), which essentially banned transgender women from competitions, Webb said: “Trans women, in other words: males.”

After receiving a complaint from a listener who argued that the comment amounted to the presenter giving his personal opinion on a controversial matter, the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) agreed that it had breached requirements on impartiality.

In a statement published on Thursday (29 February), shared with the Press Gazette, it ruled that, while it would not determine whether the comment was strictly Webb’s personal opinion, his statement was not accurate and amounted to a breach of impartiality.

“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 acknowledgement that his phrasing did not convey an entirely accurate impression,” the statement read.

“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 ECU added that the findings had been discussed with Webb and the Today Programme team.

This is not the first complaint against the journalist relating to trans people. In February 2022, a complaint against him was partially upheld after he said “gender-critical” academic Kathleen Stock had been “falsely” accused of transphobia.

Four listeners complained to the BBC over his usage of the word “falsely,” arguing it was inaccurate and breached impartiality rules. In response, the ECU ruled that, while his claim that the transphobia accusations had been disproved was inaccurate, the usage of the word did not amount to a breach of impartiality.

Webb has also been criticised for asking Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey if there should “not be spaces where biological males cannot go”, in reference to trans women.

And, last March, he compared transgender comedian Jordan Gray’s nude comedy performance on Channel 4 to instances of flashing offences, including by jailed former police officer Wayne Couzens.

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