BBC fails gay people, Stonewall report finds

New research finds that just 1.7 per cent of the BBC’s most popular youth programming features gay t

The BBC is not reflecting gay life in its most popular youth programming, new research conducted by the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity Stonewall finds.

Just 1.7 per cent of the BBC's most popular programmes included references or portrayals of gay people or issues, compared with 6.5 per cent on Channel 4 and 5.6 per cent on ITV1. The charity says that, of the 126 hours of programming monitored by Stonewall for the survey, only 46 minutes featured "realistic and positive" depictions. Of this 46 minutes, 44 seconds was to be found in BBC programmes.

Overall, the charity found that 49 per cent of all depictions was stereotypical, with gay people shown to be "figures of fun, predatory or promiscuous". A third was "realistic but negative", featuring gay people upset or distressed, most commonly about issues arising from their sexuality.

The focus groups surrounding the research seem to have demonstrated the effect that this imbalance has on young viewers. William, aged 13, said that "a lot of bad stuff happens to them", while Adil, also 13, said that "they're always having arguments and crying". Later on in the report, Adil adds that "bisexuals seem greedy".

For me, the most telling statistic refers to the type of programming. Thirty-nine per cent of all portrayals was in soap operas, with only a "negligible" representation in magazine shows and none at all in dramas. The research used the top 20 most popular programmes among young people, including The One Show, Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, Coronation Street, The Bill, How to Look Good Naked and The Simpsons.

The recommendations in the Stonewall report, though worthy, are dispiriting in themselves. "Broadcasters' existing race, gender and disability policies and practices should be mirrored in relation to sexual orientation," it says. And: "Fact-based programmes should also ensure they include issues particular to gay people, both positive and negative, in the same way that issues concerning other population cohorts are often discussed."

That either of these is a recommendation at all is perhaps more shocking than the statistics themselves. There is still a way to go, it would seem, in placing negative portrayals of different sexualities squarely under the heading of "discrimination".

Read the full report from Stonewall here.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

As a Conservative MP, I want Parliament to get a proper debate on Brexit

The government should consider a Green Paper before Article 50. 

I am very pleased that the government has listened to the weight of opinion across the House of Commons – and the country – by agreeing to put its plan for Brexit before Parliament and the country for scrutiny before Article 50 is triggered. Such responsiveness will stand the government in good stead. A confrontation with Parliament, especially given the paeans to parliamentary sovereignty we heard from Leave campaigners during the referendum, would have done neither the Brexit process nor British democracy any good.

I support the government’s amendment to Labour’s motion, which commits the House to respecting the will of the British people expressed in the referendum campaign. I accept that result, and now I and other Conservatives who campaigned to Remain are focused on getting the best deal for Britain; a deal which respects the result of the referendum, while keeping Britain close to Europe and within the single market.

The government needs to bring a substantive plan before Parliament, which allows for a proper public and parliamentary debate. For this to happen, the plan provided must be detailed enough for MPs to have a view on its contents, and it must arrive in the House far enough in advance of Article 50 for us to have a proper debate. As five pro-European groups said yesterday, a Green Paper two months before Article 50 is invoked would be a sensible way of doing it. Or, in the words of David Davis just a few days before he was appointed to the Cabinet, a “pre-negotiation white paper” could be used to similar effect.

Clearly there are divisions, both between parties and between Leavers and Remainers, on what the Brexit deal should look like. But I, like other members of the Open Britain campaign and other pro-European Conservatives, have a number of priorities which I believe the government must prioritise in its negotiations.

On the economy, it is vital that the government strives to keep our country fully participating in the single market. Millions of jobs depend on the unfettered trade, free of both tariff and non-tariff barriers, we enjoy with the world’s biggest market. This is absolutely compatible with the result, as senior Leave campaigners such as Daniel Hannan assured voters before the referendum that Brexit would not threaten Britain’s place in the single market. The government must also undertake serious analysis on the consequences of leaving the customs union, and the worrying possibility that the UK could fall out of our participation in the EU’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with non-EU countries like South Korea.

If agreeing a new trading relationship with Europe in just two years appears unachievable, the government must look closely into the possibility of agreeing a transitional arrangement first. Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, has said this would be possible and the Prime Minister was positive about this idea at the recent CBI Conference. A suitable transitional arrangement would prevent the biggest threat to British business – that of a "cliff edge" that would slap costly tariffs and customs checks on British exports the day after we leave.

Our future close relationship with the EU of course goes beyond economics. We need unprecedentedly close co-operation between the UK and the EU on security and intelligence sharing; openness to talented people from Europe and the world; and continued cooperation on issues like the environment. This must all go hand-in-hand with delivering reforms to immigration that will make the system fairer, many of which can be seen in European countries as diverse as the Netherlands and Switzerland.

This is what I and others will be arguing for in the House of Commons, from now until the day Britain leaves the European Union. A Brexit deal that delivers the result of the referendum while keeping our country prosperous, secure, open and tolerant. I congratulate the government on their decision to involve the House in their plan for Brexit - and look forward to seeing the details. 

Neil Carmichael is the Conservative MP for Stroud and supporter of the Open Britain campaign.