A BBC review of the portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people across UK programming says, “the vast majority of audiences are comfortable” with their depiction. But some participants called for the corporation to be “bolder and more creative.” There is “a sense” from experts that “LGB people are still relatively invisible, especially lesbian women and bisexual people,” the BBC said. The report (read it here) surveyed about 3,500 viewers along with members of organizations including actors’ union, Equity, and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation.
Still, shows including the BBC’s Doctor Who and ITV drama Downton Abbey, in which footman Thomas has struggled with his sexuality, were praised for their inclusion of gay characters. A member of the anti-LGBT hate crime charity Galop noted, “Doctor Who quite often has a gay character in it but it isn’t always an issue or the plotline – it’s just incidental which has been quite nice.” The area of programming that was most criticized was News and Current Affairs. The way that issues are discussed on news programs is felt to be “unnecessarily and deliberately confrontational, giving too much time to homophobic viewpoints.” Children’s programming could also use more lesbian, gay and bisexual characters to “facilitate the education role media can play in raising the awareness of LGB people.” On comedy shows, participants in the study said there was a risk of being the focus of a joke or punch line, but that there’s more acceptance if the source of the humor is themselves lesbian, gay or bisexual making it “more authentic or appropriate.” Bridesmaids actor Matt Lucas, who played Daffyd, aka “the only gay in the village,” on UK sketch show Little Britain, was singled out by a member of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation as an example. Because Lucas was “openly gay and was taking a stereotype to the nth degree it was just about acceptable – when it goes into the realms of the absurd it’s ok if it’s funny. It wouldn’t be good if that was the only representation, then it would be a problem.”
The BBC, which looked separately at the representation of transgender people and recently created the Trans Comedy Award, said the review’s findings were broadly consistent with similar research it conducted in 2010 and that it will hold another survey next year. Acting BBC director general Tim Davie 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.”