BBC Studies Depictions of Homosexuality on TV

BBC commissioned a report to study how people feel about depictions of LGB people on TV and the radio. It turns out, 18 percent of respondents feel “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with LGB people being depicted on TV and the radio, even on shows airing after 9pm.

Additionally, around one fifth of straight people said that there is too much content relating to LGB people on TV (they’re probably the same people as the 18 percent who are uncomfortable seeing any LGB people on TV). In general, the people who were uncomfortable seeing LGB people on TV were most uncomfortable with portrayals of LGB intimacy.

But, for the good news — 50 percent of the respondents were “comfortable” or “very comfortable” seeing LGB people on TV, and 32 percent were ambivalent. And while over 40 percent of heterosexual respondents thought there is about the right amount of LGB characters on TV, over 10 percent of them thought there were too few portrayals of LGB people.

Lesbian and gay respondents were critical of current representations of lesbians and gay men on TV. Many lesbians didn’t feel there were enough gay women on TV and were uncomfortable with the portrayal of lesbians only as “butch” or “lipstick lesbians.” Many gay men were unhappy with the portrayal of gay men only as feminine men.

The results are unsurprising. LGBT people aren’t represented frequently enough or accurately enough on TV programs.

But BBC is using the results of the survey to improve their programming. Tim Davie, the BBC’s head of audio, chairs a group that works on improving coverage of the LGBT community. He’s using the research to help the network show more “authentic and diverse” portrayals of LGBT people.

According to Davie: “The BBC has a responsibility to serve all our audiences as best we can and there are clear commitments we are taking from this study. We have already begun to share the research with content teams across the BBC in order to continue the progress we have made towards achieving more authentic and diverse portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.”

Through this study and subsequent changes to the network, let’s hope the BBC can show it’s commitment to portray gay people accurately.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons