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. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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