Gays and lesbians are rarely featured positively by the BBC, according to research.

The study by gay charity Stonewall revealed that only 0.06% of airtime was devoted to sexual diversity. The figures suggest that lesbian and gay lives were covered in just six minutes out of 168 hours of prime time television.

Just over half an hour of the broadcast material included “derogatory or offensive references to gay people”, the charity said.

Chief executive Ben Summerskill said more needs to be done to tackle lesbian and gay invisibility on flagship channels, “The stark conclusion of this major exercise is that gay licence-payers receive astonishingly poor value from the BBC.”

“At a time when the BBC is seeking renewal of its Charter, it’s difficult to argue that 1.5 million households should be expected to continue making such a substantial contribution to channels on which their real lives are hardly reflected, and which are often punctuated with derisive and demeaning depictions of them,” he added.

The study was conducted with the University of Leeds. It looked at programmes on the BBC between May and July 2005. Additionally, gay and straight focus groups said they found the BBC failing to appreciate the diversity of British life, in comparison with other mainstream channels.

One suggested the BBC was a “caveman” compared to other more modern broadcasters, such as Channel 4.

The research also revealed that half of the portrayal of lesbian and gay people was negative.

Stable gay relationships and families were also virtually invisible on the broadcaster, while the charity has also accused the BBC of failing to challenge homophobia

Mr Summerskill added, “The BBC has made strenuous efforts in the last five years to serve minority ethnic viewers more effectively,” he said today.

“Gay people are forced to pay the BBC £126.50 a year on pain of imprisonment if they fail. We hope that the BBC will now develop for the first time a similar sense of obligation to lesbian and gay licence-payers.”

The report suggests the BBC needed “balanced and unsensational” coverage in its news and current affairs programmes, and should develop authentic gay characters in their programmes.

A BBC spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk: ” The report is definitely a valuable contribution but we are disappointed that they looked at such a narrow timeslot.”

“The research includes just two channels from 7-10pm, we have many other TV channels including radio, and online services, so our overall news output has been excluded.”

“If they had looked wider they would have found more diversity.”