Comment: We deserve more than an apology from the BBC for their homophobia

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

This article was posted by reader Nick Henderson on

After the the expose by that the BBC had broadcast a series of anti-lesbian slurs against Hollywood star Lindsay Lohan, reader Nick Henderson believes the BBC must start respecting LGBT rights and stop broadcasting homophobic content.

Every week there seems to be a story on Pink about homophobic content on the BBC, and more often than not there is a follow up story about how the BBC has ignored those complaints or defended jokes about hanging gays in Iran or nasty slurs against Linsday Lohan.

It seems to take a bandwagon as big as Russell Brand and Jonathan for the BBC to acknowledge that has done anything wrong.

But this ignores the bigger issue. I think that with the multitude of programmes that are broadcast over a sprawling network as large as the BBC that is so closely related to British society, there are bound to be incidents where we as a community are offended or attacked, still so pervasive in British society.

But within a network as sprawling and as diverse as the BBC, there is no space for the gay community to defend itself against such attacks, or use the media as a way to educate people about the LGBT community and why such attacks are really not on any more.

If there was a racial slur made against an Asian person on a mainstream BBC programme, there would rightly be indignation within the Asian community, with space for debate provided by the Asian media, such as the BBC Asian Network.

I think it’s a great thing to have such diversity on the BBC. It is funded by pretty much everyone in the UK, and therefore communities within Britain deserve space and time on our national broadcaster to discuss and debate issues important to the community, to develop the communities’ culture and promote new trends and different ideas. It is vital for a culture to develop to have that platform, and in Britain, the BBC generally provides it.

Except for the gay community.

How much do you think the BBC spends on programmes directed at the LGBT community? Well, they wouldn’t tell me when I asked, but they were more than happy to tell me that they were “determined to portray fully-rounded gay & lesbian ‘normalised’ characters in our television output.”

I might have been also interested, according to this freedom of information response, to know that there are gay people on Doctors, Dog Borstal, and there was an entire documentary on BBC Three one time, called. The Trouble With Gay Men.

It is to the BBC’s credit that they include openly gay characters (although there is less good to be said about the inclusion of Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender people) on a few of their mainstream shows, but I fail to see how that significantly benefits the gay community, when it’s still just a token gay in a programme that is overwhelmingly heterosexist. It can even be detrimental in trying to build a gay culture that LGBT characters are portrayed with everyone around them being so cool with their sexuality that to the casual straight viewer, it appears that there are no real problems facing the community any more.

One must only glance a few times a week at websites such as to see that there are dozens of stories every day that are of supreme interest to gay people, but maybe not to anyone else.

What we lack in Britain is the space to discuss them, to debate and to challenge British society and our own community.

There is not the time on mainstream BBC to look at the range of issues that affect us in depth, and to give our culture and our history the proper investigations and debate that it so sorely deserves.

There lacks the opportunities for LGBT people to have programmes that deal with LGBT issues or are really only of interest to the LGBT community to have that reach the target audience through the mass media.

So when a homophobic slur is made on a mainstream programme, there is nowhere for us to talk about it as a community; to look at the issues behind what was said, or to debate our place in British society.

According to research done by Stonewall, LGBT people provide around £200 million of the license fee, and in return we are subject to homophobic abuse on a weekly basis, and confronted by a wall of silence when we let the BBC know that we don’t appreciate such bullying.

To start with, there needs to be LGBT dedicated programming across the vast array of the BBC network. Programmes that are aimed at the gay community and deal with issues important to us, and that should encourage LGBT people themselves to be involved in the programme at all stages of development. For example, a daily radio talk shows that discusses LGBT news and current events, that can ask the tough questions to politicians and public figures on issues that are important to us. Or a weekly TV show that gives a round-up of gay entertainment, music, movies and books, and space for up and coming LGBT stars to make their name.

Now I am not a TV producer, but there are plenty of LGBT people who are or who have better ideas than this, and we are entitled to have the BBC listen to us. Eventually I want to see a digital TV and radio station that provides the broad range of programming that our community deserves. This is not about segregation of news or entertainment, but it is about providing a space in British society for LGBT people to have their say, a say that is long overdue.