Former newsreader John Nicolson: TV needs more gay authority figures

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Scottish National Party MP John Nicolson has called for more gay “authority figures” on TV outside of comedy shows.

Mr Nicolson, the MP for East Dunbartonshire, is himself a former BBC and ITV news presenter.

In Parliament today, the former newsreader addressed a report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Mr Nicolson said: “The BBC is one of the most important and influential cultural, social, economic and democratic institutions in our country.

“I think we all agree on many things, including how important the BBC is, but there is also significant agreement on the areas in which we criticise it.”

He added: “The debate initiated by [Labour MP David] Lammy on diversity in the BBC won widespread agreement throughout the House.

“There is a shocking shortage of senior black and minority figures at the very top of the BBC. We all believe that the BBC should reflect the nation.

“When we turn on the television, the nation should be reflected back at us, but too often it is not. We do not see enough black and minority faces on screen.

“There are also not enough lesbian and gay people in senior management positions or, more importantly, on screen as authority figures, where they should be seen.

“I have made this point before. The BBC has always been absolutely fantastic at attracting gay people into comedy roles and on to gameshows, but they are not the authority figures who present the news, as they should be.”

Speaking about his time with the broadcaster previously, he said: “When I came out as gay when I was presenting BBC Breakfast on BBC One, which I did for a number of years, I found that I was the first mainstream TV news presenter to do so.

“When I told the press office staff that I had given an interview to the Daily Mail, and that when asked about my home life I had been honest, they were aghast and told me that no BBC presenter had ever been openly gay before.

“I said: ‘Perhaps in news nobody has been openly gay before, but what about other fields?’

“They said that no one in any field had ever been openly gay. Larry Grayson and John Inman were, according to their BBC biographical notes, apparently just waiting for the right woman to come along.

“That was in the year 2000, and I am not sure that much has changed.”

In the US, out news anchor Anderson Cooper recently landed one of the biggest jobs in broadcasting, moderating last week’s Presidential debate.