Entertainment & Arts

Audiences want 'more realistic' portrayal of gay people

The BBC has made "great progress" in its portrayal of gay people and gay relationships, but there is still more to be done, according to a report.

The study commissioned by the corporation said lesbian, gay and bisexual people wanted to see more authentic depictions of their lives.

It also found that heterosexual people, who were "comfortable" with gay lifestyles, wanted a similar approach.

More than 2,000 adults were questioned as part of the study.

The corporation also held a public consultation which got more than 9,400 responses.

Most respondents said they were comfortable with the portrayal of gay people or did not feel strongly about it.

The 18% who said they were uncomfortable with it said scenes of "emotional and physical intimacy" were the main problem.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of pressure group Stonewall, said: "The BBC is a hugely important part of our cultural glue and belongs to everybody.

"It's right that everyone in modern Britain should be reflected in its output."


The gay equality charity criticised the BBC earlier this year, saying ordinary gay people were almost invisible on the 20 programmes most watched by the young.

After studying 126 hours of UK television, it claimed just 46 minutes of output from the main terrestrial channels showed gay people positively and realistically.

BBC One transmitted 44 seconds of positive and realistic portrayal of gay people in more than 39 hours of output, it added.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people questioned as part of the BBC survey were split on the corporation's approach.

Around 37% said the portrayal of homosexuality on the BBC was "honest, fair and reflected real life", but 25% disagreed, saying coverage relied too heavily on stereotypes.

Channel 4 was generally thought to have a more "groundbreaking" approach to the subject.

Audiences who identified themselves as "uncomfortable" with gay lifestyles said they "trusted" the BBC to approach the subject with sensitivity.

In general, respondents wanted integration of the gay and heterosexual "worlds" so that sexual orientation was less of a talking point, and more an identity "to reflect in the mix".

Recommendations based on the report have been made to BBC Director General Mark Thompson.

Among them are that the BBC achieves "accurate and authentic portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people".

The corporation also said it would review the research again in two years to see if it had "moved forward in the eyes of our audiences".

Amanda Rice, BBC Head of Diversity added: "The publication of this very significant piece of work sends a clear signal to all our licence fee payers that the BBC is committed to meaningful engagement with all audiences."

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