THE BLOG
10/09/2015 11:04 BST | Updated 09/09/2016 06:12 BST

Where Are All the LGBT People in Our National Media?

How would you feel if every TV programme on national TV was in a different language that you didn't speak? Most likely you would end up feeling frustrated and disengaged with our media (and promptly cancel your BBC TV license).

Luckily, you can recline on your sofa this Saturday in the safe knowledge that X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing are in English.

However, there are times when as a gay man absorbing our national media I feel left out, invisible, unrepresented, as if our media is speaking a different language. The vast majority of our national media and communications is aimed at a heterosexual audience, with little or often no regard for LGBT people.

When broadcasters or magazines do dare to include an LGBT voice, often it is tokenistic. Over in the US, broadcaster CBS has come under fire for apparently manipulating a transgender member on Big Brother and trying to control how and when she 'comes out' to her fellow houseguests, giving rise to criticism that Audrey's inclusion is exploitative casting rather than representative casting.

Back on this side of the Atlantic, our soaps, which are viewed by a combined audience of 21 million and therefore have huge influence and responsibility in reflecting our society accurately, have not come very far since that lesbian kiss on Brookside in the early nineties. Eastenders, Emmerdale, Corrie, Hollyoaks; sure, they've all had great gay storylines woven in over the past two decades, don't get me wrong, but they have almost exclusively been portrayed as 'hush-hush' relationships, with characters struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.

Whilst that is of course a valid storyline (many people do go on a journey in accepting their sexuality), it would be nice to see gay characters who are out and proud, going on with their lives, accepted by their local community, living their lives, no problem. How about having a gay character involved in a story that has nothing to do with the fact that they are gay? Now that would be refreshing.

The same issue affects advertising and marketing. Unless you work in the advertising & marketing industry, you may spend very little time thinking about advertising and simply regard it as that annoying thing that shouts out at you from tube stations, bus stops and your TV. But I would ask you to stop for a moment and think about how fully represented our society is in these ads. Do you, whether you are a working mum, a gay stay-at-home-dad, a non-Caucasian grandma, a disabled grandfather, do you see yourselves represented in this form of media?

My guess would be many people do not feel properly represented by our media and advertising, because the companies making these ads are not themselves diverse enough. The ads you see are made by advertising agencies, and recent research conducted by the MAA (Marketing Agencies Association), shows that around 90% of employees in ad agencies are white. Even more concerning - just one third of LGBT people employed in those agencies feel comfortable being openly gay at work. This means there are many LGBT people working in advertising who don't feel comfortable being openly gay at work - the place where ads are made and are meant to target as many types of people as possible. Strange, don't you think? Which might explain why a gay father of two such as myself doesn't see themselves very often in UK ad campaigns.

This is why I have launched a senior LGBT group for the advertising & marketing industry (@PrideAMuk). We need to encourage more senior advertising and media execs to be openly gay and to champion diversity in their agency. Without that, I have a feeling that the LGBT community may end up feeling forgotten by our media for many more decades to come.