THE BBC has said it was wrong for a Radio 4 programme to claim that JK Rowling had “a very unpopular opinion regarding gender identity”. 

The broadcaster’s Executive Complaints Unit said there was “no conclusive evidence” that those with a different view to the Harry Potter writer “represented a majority”.

However, they dismissed complaints that it was wrong to include her in a discussion which also took in sex offender R&B artist R Kelly, paedophile sculptor Eric Gill and Adolf Hitler.

During a feature on Front Row, presenter Tom Sutcliffe was interviewing the philosopher Professor Erich Hatala Matthes about his new book, Drawing the Line which explores cancel culture and whether it is possible to separate art from the artist.

The academic used Ms Rowling as a case study because of the criticism she has attracted for her views on gender identity.  

During the interview, Mr Sutcliffe asked the professor, “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 interview prompted around 584 complaints, with Mumsnet and others urging angry listeners to contact the BBC. 

The complaint has now been upheld by the broadcaster Executive Complaint Unit. 

In their latest fortnightly complaints report, they said it was “legitimate to discuss JK Rowling, because she featured in the interviewee’s book (a fact reflected in Mr Sutcliffe’s question).”

They added: “As to comparing her case with others, the ECU noted that Mr Sutcliffe did so in the context of distinguishing between expressing opinions (as JK Rowling had done) and committing criminal acts, and considered that this was neither harmful nor offensive. 

“The ECU agreed, however, 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.”

Shortly after the programme, Mr Sutcliffe 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.”

The ECU said this was “sufficient to resolve the issues of accuracy and impartiality raised by the complaint.”

Ms Rowling has been a fierce critic of plans to reform Scotland’s gender laws.

Currently, under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, trans people seeking a gender recognition certificate must have a formal diagnosis of gender dysphoria and live in their “acquired gender” for two years. 

The Scottish Government's new proposals would remove the need for medical reports and reduce the waiting time to a minimum of three months, with a reflection period of a further three months.

The age at which people can apply would be reduced from 18 to 16.

In a tweet, Ms Rowling said: "The law @NicolaSturgeon's trying to pass in Scotland will harm the most vulnerable women in society: those seeking help after male violence/rape and incarcerated women.

"Statistics show that imprisoned women are already far more likely to have been previously abused.”

The author was also embroiled in a row with Sir Keir Starmer after accusing the Labour Party’s leader of failing to defend women’s rights.

In an interview with The Times, he said “trans women are women” according to statute.

Ms Rowling tweeted: “@Keir-Starmer publicly misrepresents equalities law, in yet another indication that the Labour Party can no longer be counted on to defend women’s rights.”