The realistic portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people on UK television has shown no signs of improvement over the last five years, new research has found.
Charity Stonewall surveyed 2,092 lesbian, gay and bisexual adults from across England, Scotland and Wales for its Gay in Britain report, which found that around a half (49%) think the portrayal of gay, lesbian and bisexual people on TV is “unrealistic”. This is marginally up on 46% in 2008.
However, the report found that some television channels do better than others in terms of portrayal, with Channel 4, BBC1 and BBC2 acknowledged for “more realistic” presentation of gay, lesbian and bisexual people than ITV, Channel 5 and Sky1.
The survey found that 50% feel Channel 4 portrays gay people realistically, with 49% saying BBC2’s is too and 46% praising BBC1’s as realistic.
Only a third – 32% – feel that ITV offers content with a realistic portrayal and 27% think the same about Sky1. The criticism of ITV comes as it was announced by the broadcaster that Vicious, the sitcom about two gay men starring Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, has been recommissioned for a second series. The comedy has been criticised for its stereotypical portrayal of older gay men.
Overall, Stonewall’s survey found more than half – 57% – think there is not enough portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people on television.
Following the research, Stonewall has drawn up a list of recommendations to broadcasters, including one that urges them to “make sure their output includes realistic and non-cliched portrayal”.
“This should include lesbian, gay and bisexual people and characters where their sexual orientation is incidental to the subject or storyline,” it added.
The report also called on broadcasters and regulator Ofcom to “train their staff to handle complaints about homophobia on screen’, and on “talent executives” to take “specific action to address the shortage of openly lesbian and bisexual presenters”.
Stonewall’s Gay in Britain report examined lesbian, gay and bisexual people’s experiences and expectations of discrimination in areas such as politics, sport and media.