BBC archive footage charts gay rights history

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The BBC has released archive footage showing how gay rights have progressed in the last 50 years.

The programmes, broadcast from the 1950s onwards, comprise TV and radio news, documentary and current affairs shows. They will be available to watch online.

The programmes in the collection feature noted gay rights campaigners including Sir Ian McKellen, Angela Mason of gay charity Stonewall, Peter Tatchell, founder of OutRage! and MEP and former EastEnders actor, Michael Cashman.

Programmes include a press conference from 1957 about the Wolfenden Report, which first recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and a Today interview on Radio 4 with MP Leo Abse, whose 1967 bill led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.

Julie Rowbotham, the executive producer, of BBC Archive, said: “The programmes in this collection offer a revealing – although at times uncomfortable – insight into how legislation changed over the decades and what effect this had on people’s lives.

“This collection is a particularly interesting tie-in with the BBC’s research, Portrayal of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People on the BBC, and should be a useful resource for anyone who is interested in finding out more about the campaign for equal rights.”

Other programmes in the collection cover the struggle of coming out, the age of consent, civil partnerships and the protests against Section 28 – the controversial government bill that banned councils from being able to ‘promote homosexuality’ through schools.

The collection can be found on the BBC Archive website,