Portraying the LGB community on the BBC

Friday 22 January 2010, 09:37

Tim Davie Tim Davie Director of Audio & Music

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Today the BBC announced that it has commissioned a piece of research to help us gain a deeper understanding into how the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) community are portrayed across all our services.

We will talk to audiences up and down the UK so that we get the widest range of views and opinions about how they think we're portraying LGB people across everything we do; whether it's television, radio or online

We'll ask people their views on language, tone, stereotyping, on screen talent, humour and scheduling to name just a few areas, and I'm sure will uncover many others that will deepen our understanding of you.

This is the most comprehensive piece of research ever carried out in this area by the BBC and we're doing it because, as a public service broadcaster, we have a responsibility to serve all of our audiences and it's vital that we reflect the differences among all of the UK's diverse communities, nations and regions.

The work- which is being conducted by research agency 2CV who have experience in in-depth audience research - will be supported by an online questionnaire which you will find at http://www.perceptor.com/perceplive/survey/bbc_lgb_portrayal. This questionnaire is open for anyone to answer and we are actively encouraging as many people as possible to participate and have their views recorded.

Additionally throughout the process we'll be in contact with LGB community organisations across the UK. In this way, through the research, via the online questionnaire and engaging with grass-root organisations we will hear from as many voices as possible.

This work is being driven by a pan-BBC Working Group on Portrayal and Inclusion of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Audiences, which I chair. It was set up last year to examine how we portray this section of our diverse audience - in part because we know that LGB communities are concerned about how they are portrayed in the media - but also because the licence fee and our public purposes means it is our job to reflect the diversity of the nation and to do that well.

The remit of this working group reflects our overall diversity strategy and builds on similar work we have carried out in recent years with other distinct audience groups.

For example, last year we conducted audience research looking at disability portrayal and we are currently looking at regional audiences - all as part of our ongoing commitment to serve all licence-fee payers.

As part of an ongoing conversation we have with our audiences on a range of issues and topics we want and expect it to make a difference.

When the research findings are delivered this summer I think we can expect an in-depth - and perhaps surprising - reflection of your range of views on how we're serving you.

The findings will be embedded in programme making at the BBC - made available to all programme makers, commissioners and other key decision makers at the BBC to ensure that when we make editorial decisions that there is continued consideration of LGB storylines or characters based on the best information and research about what audiences want and expect.

We will also make recommendations to the BBC's Diversity Board, chaired by Mark Thompson, and we intend to publish a full report which will be made available widely.

Like all my colleagues on the working group, I am genuinely excited about the prospect of getting to that stage.

We are aware that people may have strong views, both positively and negatively, about how the BBC is portraying the LGB community across our services and that's why it's so important to hear what you're thinking. Only in this way can the BBC be part of a real step change in delivering accurate, authentic portrayals of LGB people's lives.

I look forward to sharing the research when it's complete. Until then I encourage you all to get involved, click on the link below and tell us what you think.

Click here to complete the questionnaire.

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    Comment number 1.

    You will also, according to a report in the Guardian, be seeking the views of 'ethnic and religious groups, with some respondents expected to express homophobic views.' However, you have made no mention of that in this blog post.

    Why not?

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    Comment number 2.

    As a Lesbian its something of rare accurence when a programme comes along that tells my stories - usually when the latest Sarah Water's novel is adapted for TV!

    It's nice that the BBC is acknowledging that the LGB community actually pays licence fees like the hetrosexual majority. All minority groupings are woefully unrepresentated in programming and it is time to address this. I am not naive enough to think there will be change any time soon but unless we are shown as being an intrinsic part of the society we live in it will take longer for people to accept the inevitable; that we are not going away and we are not to be feared, nor will we cause the downfall of the moral structure of life. We are your neighbours, work colleagues, we help to provide and deliver your goods and services and we pay taxes like everyboby else. All we ask in return is acceptance, equality and representation. Not much really is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I'm curious as to why the BBC has chosen to exclude transgender people from this research. Trans people are traditionally considered part of the larger LGBT community, and are often among the most marginalized, stereotyped and unfairly portrayed people in contemporary media. It's regrettable that the BBC has chosen to continue this mistreatment by ignoring them in this otherwise vital research.

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    Comment number 4.

    Apparently in an attempt to improve the portrayal of Gays and Lesbians on TV "It is understood the BBC will also approach people who hold homophobic opinions."

    Should the BBC then use this approach when portraying other groups by e.g.

    Approaching racists to gain views on the portrayal of black people.

    Having a chat with a few paedophiles on childrens programming.

    Chairing a focus group of murderers on the presentation of chrime watch.


  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Well done BBC for at least looking at lesbian, gay and bisexual portrayals and those people form these communities who are its viewers. However, non trans input is noted, the research agency does not show any overt specialism on the website in LGB issues and the questionnaire is banal and over simplistic. Why is this?


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