6 July 2012

BBC Director-General: We must portray lesbian, gay and bisexual people fairly

Corporation ‘owes a debt of gratitude’ to Stonewall for challenging output
Top ten local authorities named in Education Equality Index

Speaking at Stonewall’s Education for All Conference in London on Thursday, the BBC’s Director-General, Mark Thompson, said the BBC owes Stonewall ‘a big debt of gratitude’ for helping the Corporation overcome stereotyped and limited portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in its broadcasting. During the conference Stonewall also released The School Report 2012, a landmark report about gay young people’s experiences in Britain’s schools, and named Brighton & Hove City Council as the best performing local authority tackling homophobic bullying.

Mr Thompson said the BBC had worked hard to improve fair and accurate portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people across its broadcasting, following pressure from Stonewall. ‘We have an obligation to serve every part of society fairly, impartially and sensitively,’ he said. ‘When we fail to do so, or do it imperfectly or incompletely, the public quite rightly hold us to account. We owe Stonewall a big debt of gratitude for helping us both to see our shortcomings and to begin to address them.’

During his speech Mr Thompson also reflected on the BBC’s obligations as a public broadcaster. ‘A universal public broadcaster, paid for by a universal charge, which fails to serve any significant slice of British society, will not prosper. A BBC which visibly portrays lesbian, gay and bisexual people fairly will attract creative talent. The moral case for getting this right is unanswerable. But for a creative organisation, there’s a powerful business case too.’

Mr Thompson identified several programmes that he said showed the BBC was making good progress, including The World’s Worst Place to be Gay – which won the 2011 Stonewall Award for Broadcast of the Year – and a BBC Radio 1 sexuality surgery in March, where Stonewall provided one of three expert panellists to talk to young people about sexual orientation. Mr Thompson added that his successor, George Entwistle, was ‘every bit’ as committed to fair representation.

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