The second BBC report looking at bisexual, lesbian and gay representation in their TV and radio output notes changes over the last two years including two shows consciously including bisexual people.
The BBC interviewed hundreds of bisexual, lesbian and gay people, and assembled an expert panel including journalists and representatives of some large LGBT organisations, to review their work and compare it with the findings of a previous report in 2010.
“Portrayal of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People on the BBC” finds that the BBC is seen as delivering well on LGB representation – except for “little portrayal of lesbian women, and hardly any representation of bisexual people“. Note that careful mixing bis all up in one category regardless of gender, so unpicking a little spin: they’re doing well on one quarter of their LGB programming remit.
Two programmes are highlighted as challenging that invisibility: daytime TV drama Doctors and one-off Radio 4 programme It’s My Story: Getting Bi with Tom Robinson.
Mohit Bakaya, Commissioning Editor, Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra, told researchers of how her work had responded to the previous 2010 report:
“The Audiences team came to the Radio 4 creative community with this research early in 2011. Radio 4 has a fairly good record on LGB representation and portrayal, but the finding that bisexuality was under-represented as an identity resonated with me. As a result, I commissioned It’s my story: Getting Bi, a documentary in which musician Tom Robinson explores what it is to be bisexual in Britain today. It is a piece of content we are all proud of, and has been very well received by the audience. It might well not have happened, were it not for the prompting of this research.”
Peter Lloyd, Senior Producer of Doctorsis also quoted:
“When I created the character of Freya in Doctors, I found the 2010 LGB portrayal research useful in understanding how bisexual people feel they are portrayed, and the wider context in which LGB portrayal is received by audiences.
“The research gave us confidence in including a bisexual woman in the show and the issues she would face and helped us to develop a well-rounded, authentic character who became much-loved by the daytime drama audience, and in whose storylines her sexual orientation was sometimes relevant, and sometimes completely incidental. In addition, we did use humour to raise issues, which was a useful mechanism.”
The report also reflects a hesitancy about including bisexual representation, as one expert panel member says:
“As a gay man I was uneasy when I heard about the Corrie [bisexual] storyline because it reinforces the notion that ‘you just have to meet the right woman’.”
A silly idea, of course. It reinforces the notion that there are more than two options on the table.