New BBC study seeks ‘deeper understanding’ of gays on TV

The BBC has commissioned a major research project into its own portrayal of homosexuals.

The study is intended to help BBC chiefs gain a “deeper understanding into how the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) community are portrayed” across its TV, radio and online services.

Its findings will be made available to all the BBC’s key decision makers and “embedded in programme making”.

Announcing the study on his BBC blog, the Corporation’s director of audio and music Tim Davie said: “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 research will be overseen by a pan-BBC Working Group on Portrayal and Inclusion of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Audiences which Mr Davie chairs.

The Group will make recommendations to the BBC’s Diversity Board, which is chaired by the Director General, Mark Thompson.

The three-part project will involve a “qualitative research study” and a “follow-up quantitative survey”, as well as a public questionnaire on the BBC website.

The qualitative research will consult 28 different “audience sectors” which will include homosexual advocacy groups and religious groups.

It has been reported that the BBC expects some groups to express ‘homophobic’ opinions.

A professional research agency has been hired to carry out the research. The project is expected to cost a five figure sum.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of homosexual lobby group Stonewall, said he was “delighted that after four years of campaigning on the issue the BBC has finally admitted there is a problem”.

He added: “There has been a huge reluctance to admit that gay people have been under-represented in all areas of BBC programming.”

Martin Brown, spokesman for the entertainment trade union Equity, said: “It remains Equity’s view that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are significantly under-represented in UK televised drama and light entertainment.”

The consultation questionnaire on the BBC website will remain open until 2 April.

The public are invited to answer questions such as: “Do you think the BBC has a responsibility to try and help challenge perceptions that may exist about lesbian, gay and bisexual people?” and “Do you think the BBC broadcasts enough programmes that include stories about lesbian, gay or bisexual people, or characters, presenters or contributors who are lesbian, gay or bisexual?”

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