The BBC drama controller [and original commissioner of Sherlock] Ben Stephenson, who is himself gay, said he was “really worried” that there are not many gay characters on television and called on writers to come forward with more stories addressing homosexuality.
Stephenson said it was simplistic to argue that greater diversity offscreen will result in improvement in on-screen portrayals, pointing to his own experience. “I am diverse, in that sense [gay], and are there many portrayals of gay characters on television?”
"I would say it’s probably one of the lowest [represented] areas."
"When the great gay script comes in, I shall definitely be commissioning it."
As well as sexuality, he felt that more effort should be made to give mental illness — "a massive taboo on TV" — a better showing.
But this quest for diversity should not come at the cost of quality, he insisted.
"I want to commission great stuff — that’s all I care about," he declared at the ‘Changing the Face of TV’ panel discussion at New Broadcasting House.
Stephenson said that diversity in BBC drama was the best it has ever been, but stressed, “We’ve got a long way to go.”
He added: “The nature of my job is to help people who love drama find enough that connects with them over the course of the year, so they can say ‘that was worth the licence fee.’”
“The important thing is making these conversations feel creative and not about ticking a box, because no one believes that creates good drama.”
Ben Stephenson is the original commissioner of Sherlock, and has served as the BBC’s Controller of Drama Commissioning since 2008.
Sources: Excerpts taken from overlapping reports on BBC’s ‘Reflect and Represent’ conference at the New Broadcasting House in February, 2014.
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