Michael Harper came out as gay on this evening's episode of the BBC One sitcom My Family. As far as Newsround Blog is concerned, if this 'coming out' was supposed to show the BBC as gay-friendly, it was misguided. Here's why:
BBC guidelines in 1996 stated that "Gay and lesbian people, and those who are bi-sexual, make up a significant minority entitled to be served and treated fairly by the BBC." But when devout Catholic Mark Thompson became Director-General in 2004 programme guidelines were revised, and amongst the changes made the following year was the deletion of that advice. A new 'Diversity Board' was created, chaired by Thompson himself, and within months there were noticeable changes to children's TV - LGB characters and storylines disappeared.
With that background in mind, it is interesting to note that this tenth series of My Family is currently going out at 9pm. Previously it had been shown before the watershed. Of course, in line with outdated attitudes, now that Michael has revealed he's gay we're likely to see a lot of humour based around sex and his sexuality. This gay theme begins just as Jonathan Ross, together with his obsessive prurient innuendo, leave the BBC.
More about Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in part 2 of this blog.
Anyone who's watched My Family over the years will have appreciated that the Harpers are a middle-class family with pretty liberal and easy-going values. Would someone from such a family wait until they were 22 before telling their parents they were gay? Maybe they would a generation ago, and maybe some still would. But children today will hopefully feel able to come out in their teens.
Whilst on the topic of 'coming out' isn't is about time that BBC scriptwriters decided whether Ben from Eastenders is, or is not gay? Don't some kids know they're gay at the same age that others have crushes on the opposite sex?