Lesbians and bisexuals ‘invisible’ in UK media

BBC report sheds light on audience and expert views on media's portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people

Lesbians and bisexuals ‘invisible’ in UK media
13 December 2012

Lesbians and bisexuals are still ‘invisible’ in the UK’s media, according to a report by the BBC.

The broadcasting organization’s publication provides a snapshot of the views of audiences and experts on the portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in UK programming.

The research found that many LGB people feel they are still under-represented by all UK broadcasters, not just the BBC.

In particular, the study found there was still a perceived lack of lesbians and bisexuals, despite improvements being made over the years.

The report states: ‘Over the past ten years or so, there is a sense from the LGB experts that representation is still so unusual that it stands out when it is included and that LGB people are still relatively invisible, especially lesbian women and bisexual people.’

Around 3,500 people were consulted for the survey, including over 500 people who identified themselves as lesbian, gay and bisexual, as well as an in-depth consultation of individuals and members of expert organisations including Stonewall, actors’ union Equity and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation.

Among the recommendations from gay groups was that the BBC should be more ‘creative and bolder’ in its portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people across all media.

Experts also called for more ‘incidental’ portrayals of LGB people and less stereotypes.

Andy Wasley, from Stonewall, said: ‘Gay people contribute £216 million in licence fee payments to the BBC so we should expect our lives and concerns to be represented fairly.

‘The BBC’s new study shows there’s still work to be done, despite some good progress.

‘Lesbians and bisexual people are still significantly under-represented on TV and radio, as are LGB people who aren’t young, white or able-bodied. And as the study makes clear, news and current affairs coverage remains an area of concern.

‘We look forward to continuing our work with the BBC on these issues.’

The review’s findings are broadly consistent with the 2010 research, which the BBC claims will provide a benchmark to track future changes. The BBC will conduct another audience survey in 2013.

Acting director general Tim Davie, chair of the BBC Working Group which commissioned the review, said: ‘The BBC has a fundamental obligation to serve all its audiences. In fact, it’s one of the BBC’s public purposes to reflect the diversity of UK life. 

‘I’m proud to have led this work for three years, and this review underlines our commitment and sets a direction for the work to continue.’

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