The BBC has rejected complaints made about a same-sex kiss in children’s drama The Next Step.
The broadcaster stood by the inclusion of a romantic moment between teenage characters Jude and Cleo in the Canadian series – which airs on CBBC – stating that it is “proud to reflect all areas of children’s lives across our factual and fictional output”.
The scene was widely praised online for providing LGBTQ+ representation to a younger audience when it aired last month, but Metro reported the BBC had also received “more than 100” complaints about the kiss.
Responding to the complaints, the BBC also pointed out misconceptions that it was the first time a same-sex kiss had aired in one of its children’s series, noting this actually happened in drama Byker Grove in 1994, with many same-sex relationships also featuring in other series.
In a statement, the BBC said: “The decision to include this moment, as part of a longer storyline throughout series seven which has been tracking the development of a romantic relationship between two of the characters, Jude and Cleo, was taken very carefully and with much consideration, and came about after CBBC and Boatrocker (the production company who make the show) acknowledged that the series could and should do more to reflect the lives of LGBTQ+ young people.
“This is an important part of our mission to make sure that every child feels like they belong, that they are safe, and that they can be who they want to be.”
It continued: “We believe that the storyline, and the kiss, was handled with sensitivity and without sensationalism, following as it did the portrayal of Jude and Cleo’s developing relationship and I’m afraid we do not agree that it was inappropriate for the audience age – CBBC regularly portrays heterosexual young people dating, falling in love, and kissing, and it is an important way of showing children what respectful, kind and loving relationships look like.
“At Children’s BBC, we are proud to reflect all areas of children’s lives across our factual and fictional output.
“Same-sex relationships have already featured in other CBBC shows such as Jamie Johnson, 4 O’Clock Club, Dixie and Marrying Mum and Dad, and (contrary to what was reported in the press about The Next Step) the first same-sex kiss on CBBC was in fact in Byker Grove, many years ago.”
The statement finished: “This moment in The Next Step is merely one story among a myriad of voices and experiences across our output.”
The Next Step follows the members of a dance troupe from a dance studio, as they train for and compete in various championships.
Beginning in 2013, it is now in its seventh series and the show has spawned a number of international tours featuring the cast.