BBC rejects complaint after trans people left out of Newsnight debate on puberty blockers

Episode that aired after the High Court ruling on puberty blockers was criticised for not including a trans voice in the debate

Roisin O'Connor@Roisin_OConnor
Wednesday 24 February 2021 13:24
Keira Bell discusses personal experience with puberty blockers

The BBC has rejected a complaint over an episode of Newsnight on transgender healthcare, which failed to include trans people in the discussion.

The episode, which focused on the December High Court ruling that restricts the use of puberty blockers for trans children, featured presenter Emily Maitlis and Keira Bell, who is taking legal action against an NHS gender clinic over her decision to transition to male as a teenager.

Bell, who now regrets transitioning, argued that the centre should have challenged her more on her decision.

Mermaids charity CEO Susie Green, who is a cisgender mother to a young trans woman, also took part in the discussion.

This week, musician and activist Katy Montgomerie shared a screenshot of a reply she received after complaining about the lack of trans representation on the show.

“Reply from Newsnight claiming that they don't agree a program about trans people should have talked to at least a single trans person Imagine a program about women that didn't talk to a single one,” she tweeted.

“I appreciate the concern you have raised but I am afraid I do not share your view that it was necessary to include a contribution from a trans person bearing in mind the scope and focus of the Newsnight coverage,” the response said.

“As you can see, due impartiality means taking account of the subject and nature of the matter under discussion when deciding which viewpoints need to be reflected.

Read more: ‘Puberty blockers’ were lifesaving for my daughter – all young people deserve a shot at happiness’

“On this occasion, the focus was on the High Court decision and the consequences for young people receiving or waiting for, treatment with puberty blockers.”

The spokesperson said the BBC’s editorial guidelines “make it clear the requirement was to ensure the report, and the subsequent discussion, gave weight to an appropriate range of significant views and perspectives which were relevant to the High Court decision.”

However, many were unsatisfied with this response, with Labour MP Wes Streeting tweeting: “Disappointed to say the least. One of the great things about Newsnight’s coverage of schools has been the efforts to include the voices of experts - teachers and young people themselves - in discussions. We need to hear more from trans people about their lived experiences.”