Channel 4 to improve portrayal of transgender people

Channel 4 has commissioned research looking into the issues and challenges faced by transgender people, which it will use to commission programmes that accurately portray people from this community.

The project follows an admission from Channel 4 director of creative diversity Stuart Cosgrove in October that storylines featuring transgender people are missing from television because of commissioners’ lack of “confidence and understanding”.

It also comes as the broadcaster this week signed up to a memorandum of understanding drawn up by Trans Media Watch, which is aimed at combating prejudiced and inaccurate depictions of transgender people.

The research is being conducted by cultural research and brand consultancy Flamingo. Channel 4 said it will be used by commissioners to “increase their knowledge” and to give them “the confidence to handle portrayal authoritatively”.

Flamingo director Jo Shaw said: “We hope to bring some clarity and insight to the debate, in support of Channel 4′s ambition to deepen its understanding of the issues, and its desire to take the lead in presenting the experiences of trans people with accuracy and sensitivity in the future.”

Meanwhile, Trans Media Watch’s memorandum asks signatories to support a set of shared aims, including eliminating transphobia in the media and increasing “positive, well-informed representations of transgender people in the media”.

At the moment, Channel 4 is the only broadcaster signed up to the memorandum, however Cosgrove said he was confident others, such as ITV and the BBC, will follow suit. He told The Stage Channel 4 had signed up because part of its remit is “to reflect the diversity of the UK”.

Cosgrove also said he believes the portrayal of transgender people will be boosted on Channel 4 following its signing of the memorandum, and added that this will include an “increase in diversity of portrayal”, so that programmes do not just focus on “people going through an operative change”.

Hollyoaks star Victoria Atkin writes about playing a transgendered person on television in this week’s print edition of The Stage

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