BBC ‘cut Nicola Williams from debate with Rachel McKinnon over trans row’ The Times 19.02.19

The original article is here

The BBC has been accused of allowing transgender activists to “no platform” opponents after a feminist campaigner said that her invitation to appear on Radio 5 Live had been withdrawn.

Nicola Williams, from Fair Play For Women, was booked to appear on Stephen Nolan’s show to discuss comments by Martina Navratilova about transgender women in sport.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Navratilova, who won Wimbledon nine times, said that it was “insane” and “cheating” to allowing transgender athletes who were born male to compete against biological women.

Dr Williams agreed to take part in a discussion on Sunday night but says that she was subsequently contacted by a producer to say that the invitation to appear in that specific segment had been withdrawn.

The change of heart came after Rachel McKinnon, a transgender world cycling champion and activist who had also been asked to participate in the programme, made clear that she would not take part in a debate with Dr Williams. In a series of tweets before the show was broadcast, Dr McKinnon compared Fair Play for Women to the Ku Klux Klan and accused it of leading a “smear campaign against me and other trans women athletes”.

Fair Play For Women opposes what it describes as the “rush to reform transgender laws”, and says that transgender rights should not be allowed to infringe a woman’s right to privacy, safety and fairness. Transgender groups accused the group of transphobia.

“I will not participate in a discussion panel that takes them seriously and gives them a platform,” Dr McKinnon wrote. “Would you expect a black person to actively ‘debate’ a KKK member on civil rights? That’s analogous to what you’re asking me.”

Dr Williams says she was told by the production team that she could no longer join the debate because of Dr McKinnon’s stance and that Nolan would “voice the counterargument” instead. She was offered a right to reply later in the show or in a subsequent programme.

Feminist campaigners who have concerns about elements of the transgender rights movement say that the “no platform” policies adopted by some activists are being used to silence critics.

The BBC’s editorial guidelines say that guests do not have the right to bar other contributors. The rules state: “The refusal of an individual or an organisation to make a contribution should not be allowed to act as a veto on the appearance of other contributors holding different views, or on the output itself.”

Last night the BBC said that Dr Williams’s invitation had not been withdrawn but she had been asked to appear later in the programme. The priority of the segment was to hear the response of transgender athletes to Navratilova’s remarks, the BBC added. The segment featured two transgender participants, Dr McKinnon and Charlie Martin, a racing driver and LGBT activist.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We invited Dr Williams to appear on the programme and after initially agreeing to join us at a later point in the show she subsequently declined. The offer remains open.”