The BBC has been accused of disinviting a gay group from a programme because it refused to attack Kate Forbes, the under-fire Scottish National Party (SNP) leadership hopeful.
The LGB Alliance (LGBA) was approached on Friday by BBC One’s Sunday Morning Live to debate whether “traditional Christian views are incompatible with modern politics” on a studio panel, in the context of Ms Forbes’s views on same-sex marriage.
When a producer canvassed its opinion, the group of lesbian, gay and bisexual people said it “completely reject[ed]her views” but insisted “we have freedom of religion” and that religious beliefs are protected under the 2010 Equality Act.
Shortly after that phone call, the BBC producer sent an email, seen by The Telegraph, saying the programme had “decided to go in a different direction with the debate, and we’ll no longer be requiring Kate [Harris, co-founder of LGBA] on Sunday”.
Instead, the BBC invited Natasha Devon, a bisexual campaigner, who argued Miss Forbes’s views should rule her out from replacing Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s next first minister.
Bev Jackson, co-founder of the LGBA, said the row showed how the BBC “wanted a specific narrative”.
She told The Telegraph: “Producers have the right to make the programme their own, but if you always only present these TQ+ people who are very aggressive and uncompromising, it gives the public a very bad impression of gay people.
“It looks to me as if what they wanted is a gay organisation to come on and join the attack on her and say ‘you can’t have those views’.
“It’s a cynical character assassination because it is now convenient to attack her religion – we totally reject her views on abortion, same-sex marriage and children being born out of wedlock, but we believe in the Equality Act, which protects religion.”
Ms Jackson claimed the LGBA had previously been disinvited from Newsnight too as the charity Stonewall would not appear alongside it.
She also questioned why the BBC continued to ask Peter Tatchell, a trans activist, onto programmes when the LGBA is “not anti-trans people, we simply stand up for lesbian, gay and bisexual rights”.
A BBC spokesman said: “Our programme makers have conversations with a range of potential contributors ahead of a show, but that doesn’t guarantee they will feature, and unfortunately we can’t include them all. We don’t ban voices or organisations.”