THE BBC has said it “misleadingly” described JK Rowling as holding “very unpopular opinions” on gender identity.

The broadcaster received a complaint about an episode of Front Row on BBC Radio 4 which was aired on March 24.

The listener said the way the programme described the author’s views was “misleading”, adding that it was “offensive and harmful to discuss JK Rowling in the same context as Eric Gill, Adolf Hitler and R Kelly”.

The Executive Complains Unit (ECU) at the BBC dismissed the latter part but admitted the statement by Tom Sutcliffe was “potentially misleading”.

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The journalist was interviewing the philosopher Professor Erich Hatala Matthes about his new book Drawing the Line which explores whether it is possible to separate art from the artist.

Sutcliffe brought up the Harry Potter author, who has been outspoken over her views on gender.

He asked: “And do you think there’s a major philosophical distinction between artists who have committed crimes, have been found guilty of crimes, and artists who simply have unpopular opinions?

“You bring up the case of JK Rowling who clearly has a very unpopular opinion regarding gender identity and has, as a consequence of that, faced severe and serious criticism. Are those the same things?”

The BBC said it was fair to discuss Rowling in this context as she appeared in Matthes’s book and the reporter distinguished her from the likes of Hitler and R Kelly.

The broadcaster said that part of the interview was neither “harmful nor offensive”.

But the BBC admitted calling Rowling's views unpopular was “potentially misleading”.

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It said: “The ECU agreed … that Mr Sutcliffe’s reference to a ‘very unpopular opinion’ was potentially misleading because, while it had clearly proved objectionable to some, there was no conclusive evidence that the objectors represented a majority.”

The ECU said it considered the matter resolved prior to the complaint as the journalist had later said Rowling’s views are shared by many people.

The BBC said: “Before the complaint reached the ECU … Mr Sutcliffe had appeared on Radio 4’s Feedback and acknowledged that he should have acknowledged that many people shared the view expressed by JK Rowling, and that he should have reflected that view.

“In the ECU’s judgment this was sufficient to resolve the issues of accuracy and impartiality raised by the complaint.”