JK Rowling transphobic row: The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) ruled that a Today FM broadcast in which a panellist called JK Rowling a “transphobic bigot” was “not fair”.
A complaint was lodged about a segment of the Last Word with Matt Cooper on September 18, 2020. The complaint stated that during the weekly panel discussion, Rowling was described as transphobic, and the contributor did not provide evidence to back the claim up. It also claimed that the statement was not challenged by the presenter or any other panellist. The complaint stated that since it was a serious accusation, the statement not being challenged lead to the segment not being balanced, impartial, or objective.
The broadcaster responded that a specific story was being discussed about the artists Jedward. The panel mentioned that Jedward tweeted about Rowling, specifically the comments she made regarding transgender people. That was the context for the discussion regarding Rowling.
The broadcaster also stated that the panellist was entitled to their opinion and was entitled to express it during the program. The broadcaster added that if it had been a debate regarding transphobia, then guests would have been included to represent both sides of the argument. It was also stated that it was not a news or current affairs piece, instead, it was a discussion on various topics where opinions were encouraged.
The BAI decided to uphold the complaint. It stated that “The code requires that current affairs content is fair to all interests concerned and that the broadcast matter is presented in an objective and impartial manner and without any expression of the broadcaster’s own views.”
The complaint was upheld since the accusation of Rowling being a “transphobic bigot” was not countered by the presenter. The BAI stated that “The presenter did not challenge the panel member or facilitate the exploration of alternative viewpoints. The principle of fairness requires that the approach to covering issues should be equitable and proportionate.”