Saturday, July 07, 2012

The BBC does not have a good record on LGBT diversity, so it was quite a pleasant change to see outgoing Director-General, Mark Thompson, take the time to present a speech to Stonewall's 'Education for All' conference on Thursday.

The quotes in this blog are taken from Mark Thompson's final draft, as supplied by the BBC.

Mark began his speech with some remarks about DG-elect, George Entwistle, whom he described as an outstanding journalist and programme-maker, a great creative leader and a brilliant choice for the job. Mark Thompson wanted people to know that he's discussed his speech with Mr Entwistle, and so was speaking on behalf of the future BBC leadership as well as his own. George Entwistle was, said Mr Thompson, "every bit as committed."

The DG spoke about the BBC’s duty to take lesbian, gay and bisexual people as seriously as any other part of its audience, and "to portray them and convey their experiences and perspectives with as much conviction and fairness as we would anyone else." He added "we have an obligation to serve every section of society fairly and impartially and sensitively."

The BBC must now meet this challenge more energetically and urgently than it has in the past, said Mr Thompson, paying tribute to those who take the BBC to task for its shortcomings.

Mark Thompson: "A broader sense of justice and fairness is more prevalent today in the UK than ever before. And the BBC’s handling of all minorities - and certainly of lesbians, gays and bisexuals - is an important moral marker for much of our wider audience too."

Younger viewers, said Mr Thompson, are particularly sensitive to "anything which looks like less than fair and equal treatment" of minorities. If the BBC failed to serve any significant section of British society "it will start to look out of touch, and ultimately irrelevant."

Mark Thompson: "’s a striking fact that in 2012 we are living in a country where a coalition government led by a Conservative Prime Minister is leading the charge on the case for instituting gay marriage. If the BBC wants to keep up – especially with its younger audiences, but also with its audience as a whole – it needs to address the topic."

Much of the rest of Mr Thompson's speech was devoted to the findings of the BBC LGB consultation in 2010, and to how well the corporation is doing. He ended with a commitment to portray lesbian, gay and bisexual life in this country in all its own diversity and richness which, said the Director-General, would be a "central concern" rather than just an afterthought.

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