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 web editor of the New Statesman.

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Scottish Labour's defeat to the Tories confirms a political transformation

The defining divide is no longer between left and right but between unionist and nationalist.

It was Scotland where Labour's recovery was supposed to begin. Jeremy Corbyn's allies predicted that his brand of left-wing, anti-austerity politics would dent the SNP's hegemony. After becoming leader, Corbyn pledged that winning north of the border would be one of his greatest priorities. 

But in the first major elections of his leadership, it has proved to be Labour's greatest failure. A result that was long thought unthinkable has come to pass: the Conservatives have finished second (winning 31 seats). For the first time since the 1910 election, Labour has finished third (winning 24). Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale stood on a left-wing platform, outflanking the SNP on tax (pledging to raise the top rate to 50p and increase the basic rate by 1p), promising to spend more on public services and opposing the renewal of Trident. But rather than advancing, the party merely retreated.

Its fate confirms how Scottish politics has been realigned. The defining divide is no longer between left and right but between unionist and nationalist. With the SNP as the only major pro-independence party, the Tories, led by the pugnacious Ruth Davidson, framed themselves as the pro-UK alternative - and prospered. In contrast, Dugdale refused to rule out supporting a second referendum and suggested that MPs and MSPs would be free to campaign for secession. The result was that Scottish Labour was left looking dangerously irrelevant. "Identity politics. Labour doesn't get it," a shadow minister told me. Its socialist pitch counted for little in a country that remains ideologically closer to England than thought. The SNP has lost its majority (denying it a mandate for a second referendum) - an outcome that the electoral system was always designed to make impossible. But its rule remains unthreatened. 

Corbyn's critics will seek to pin the baleful result on him. "We turned left and followed Jeremy's politics in Scotland, which far from solving our problems, pushed us into third," a senior opponent told me. But others will contend that a still more left-wing leader, such as Neil Findlay, is needed. Dugdale is personally supportive of Trident and was critical of Corbyn before his election. Should she be displaced, the party will be forced to elect its sixth leader in less than five years. But no one is so short-sighted as to believe that one person can revive the party's fortunes. Some Corbyn critics believe that a UK-wide recovery is a precondition of recovery north of the border. At this juncture, they say, SNP defectors would look anew at the party as they contemplate the role that Scottish MPs could play in a Westminster government. But under Corbyn, having become the first opposition to lose local election seats since 1985, it is yet further from power. 

In Scotland, the question now haunting Labour is not merely how it recovers - but whether it ever can. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.