All too often, PinkNews.co.uk finds itself publishing stories relating to the BBC offending the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. If it’s not suggesting that lesbians are “munters”, allowing its highest paid presenters to continually be reprimanded by Ofcom for homophobia or hosting debates asking if gay people should be executed, it’s soliciting views from abhorrent extremists on gay related issues.
Last year, PinkNews.co.uk ran an April Fools joke that the BBC was to introduce a “five minute gay delay”, with a “gay czar” to ensure that coverage was not homophobic! If only our joke story had have been real, then this constant stream of gaffes by the national broadcaster might have been avoided.
No other group of people are subjected to the same level of insult by the BBC as the LGBT community. Would the BBC continue to employ radio presenters who made anti-semitic or racist jokes? Would they ask a member of the Ku Klux Klan to comment on the birth of a surrogate child to a mixed raced couple?
Today the BBC said it needed to include an interview with a self declared supporter of state sponsored execution of gay men on the news that Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish in order to reflect debate in the country on the issue of gay couples adopting. But Stephen Green, of tiny fundamentalist group Christian Voice represents next to no-one. It is pretty clear to PinkNews.co.uk that the BBC appeared to be unable to film an interview with any credible opponent of gays having surrogate children.
Enough is enough, this isn’t the most serious offence that the BBC has ever committed against LGBT people, but it’s the one that in the view of PinkNews.co.uk tips the corporation over the edge.
There are somewhere between 3.5 to 5 million television owning LGBT people in Britain, all of whom are forced to purchase a television licence fee in order to fund the BBC regardless of whether they watch any BBC programmes. Even if LGBT people chose to watch no BBC programmes at all and stuck to the more tolerant ITV or Channel 4 instead, they are still forced to fund the BBC. This monopoly over an effective tax on television consumption means that the BBC has a greater duty than most to accurately reflect the nation.
So what can the LGBT community do? Complain perhaps?
A complaint by a PinkNews.co.uk reader after the broadcast of a series of gratuitously explicit, homophobic comments relating to Lindsay Lohan finally resulted in condemnation by the BBC Trust. PinkNews.co.uk readers complained when one its highest paid presenters, Chris Moyles, homophobically imitated the gay pop star Will Young, resulting in a ruling against the corporation by media regulator Ofcom. Complaints from PinkNews.co.uk readers after the BBC News website hosted a debate asking if gays should face execution resulted in an apology from the head of the BBC World Service. There are just three of more than one hundred articles on PinkNews.co.uk relating to homophobia by the BBC.
In 2009, a survey for PinkNews.co.uk found that 69 per cent of LGBT people considered the BBC to be institutionally homophobic. That survey was conducted before the corporation hosted its ‘Should homosexuals face execution’ debate. Responding to the survey, Lord Chris Smith, the openly gay former culture secretary told PinkNews.co.uk that the BBC needed to take a “a more severe line” against homophobia.
A Stonewall report earlier this year found that the BBC was the worst British broadcaster for representing LGBT people. The BBC said it would commission its own research into covering LGBT issues better.
But the sad fact is that despite mountains of complaints, surveys and reports, nothing seems to change the long term strategy of the BBC. The corporation apologises for individual mistakes but there is no culture change. It seems that the broadcaster intends to just carry on insulting our community over and over again.
So while PinkNews.co.uk encourages readers to complain to the BBC (there is a guide here), more direct action might be appropriate.
Some have suggested refusing to pay the television licence fee, but it is a legal requirement if you own a television and you can end up in court if you refuse to pay. A write in campaign to request a rebate based on the poor quality of the service provided by the corporation might perhaps send a stronger message but it’s unlikely that anyone will be receiving a cheque back in the post soon. However, it is still worth asking for one, not least because if thousands of people did just that, the administrative cost of replying to the the communications would start to rack-up.
Another option is available thanks to legal loopholes in the television licence arrangements. It is a requirement to poses a licence to watch live television, but not to watch on-demand (i.e. not live) content. So if you were content with watching content via the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Demand Five, Sky Player, YouTube et al, then you don’t actually require a TV licence. The BBC still has to produce the same content, actually at increased cost of distribution due to bandwidth requirements, but would receive no income from you at all.