RE: A letter of concern over failings in the BBC’s public service obligations towards trans rights

Chris Northwood
3 min readDec 28, 2021

Back in October, I wrote an open letter to Tim Davie and Fran Unsworth, Director-General and Director of News & Current Affairs respectively at the BBC. I invited others to add their name to it, and 1172 of you decided to do so, for which I remain incredibly humbled. I emailed the letter to them directly, as well as filed a physical copy with the BBC complaints department.

Photograph of an A4 envelope containing a copy of an open letter sent to the BBC complaints department

I had stock responses from the BBC complaints department and escalated it to the Executive Complaints Unit, the ultimate body that can handle general complaints like this where it’s waiting for a response. I’ve been unimpressed with the response, including one that incorrectly assumed my gender and title, and addressed me as “Mr Northwood”. However, on 23rd December I received an email response from Tim Davie directly, which I’ve included below to share with those who joined me in signing the open letter:

Dear Chris

Thank you for your open letter and my apologies for the delay in responding to you.

On the editorial points you raised, I have had many conversations over the past weeks and months with colleagues and stakeholders on these issues. While we can always do more to fully understand the context and issues surrounding debates within our society, our editorial guidelines are clear: when reporting on policy debates, our journalism must be impartial and reflect a range of views. I want our reporting to cover a range of topics and different perspectives, to help our audiences understand and engage with the world around them.

We take our responsibilities around our editorial standards extremely seriously and will, of course, continue to carefully monitor our coverage, including on LGBTQ+ matters. Concerns around specific editorial maters, however, are best expressed through the BBC complaints system with reference to specific items or programmes that you have seen or heard.

For reference, you can find our responses to recent editorial complaints here:

You also raised points about the culture of the BBC and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ staff. At the BBC our objective is to be a fully inclusive employer. We are absolutely committed to being an industry-leading employer on LGBTQ+ inclusion. We are proud of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and non-binary colleagues and will continue to support everyone to build fulfilling and enjoyable careers at the BBC.

Thank you also for your specific suggestions which are helpful in shaping our future plans.

Please be assured that we are committed to making programmes and content for all our audiences and to providing a workplace in which everyone is welcomed and able fully to participate.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Davie


Now of course this isn’t a “I’m sorry, we’ve made mistakes and will do better in future”, but I’m at least thankful that this has been acknowledged and read by those at that level of the organisation and has hopefully influenced their thinking. I know my letter was an active topic of discussion in the BBC D&I Slack too, and I’m thankful for my former colleagues who privately contacted me after publishing it, although some did receive repurcussions for adding their name to it.

Only time will tell of course, and the principle of public service broadcasting, retains a special place in my heart. The failings of the News & Current Affairs division has damaged the whole of the BBC in the eyes of the trans & non-binary community and our allies, and they will have to work to rebuild it. I hope they’re up to the task.



Chris Northwood

A technologist wanting to share knowledge and iterate towards a better world.