Thursday, January 22, 2009

Disabled TV viewers in Britain want true-to-life portrayals

From Broadcast Now in the UK:

Disabled viewers are demanding more "warts and all" portrayal of disability on TV, major new research by the BBC and Channel 4 has revealed.

The broadcasters commissioned a Brand Democracy survey of 500 disabled adults that showed 80% of those surveyed want disabled villains and scoundrels on TV, as well as worthy characters.

Nearly three quarters also want an increase in the number of disabled presenters, newsreaders and experts – talking about subjects other than disability.

"At the heart of the findings was a desire for disability to be treated as ordinary rather than something special," said head C4 head of programmes Julian Bellamy.

Disabled viewers also called on the industry to cast more disabled actors in disabled roles.

The BBC will launch an online directory of disabled actors and performers "within weeks", to help producers, including indies, identify disabled talent. "We want producers to understand that it is not possible for us to omit disabled people from our programmes," said BBC editorial director of diversity Mary Fitzpatrick.

The corporation is also planning to introduce the first regular disabled character in EastEnders, while C4 has cast a deaf actor in the next series of Shameless and recently introduced a wheelchair-bound character into Hollyoaks (pictured).

However, C4 editorial manager for disability, Alison Walsh, argued it is imperative the industry also casts disabled actors in parts that are "disability neutral".

"If you're a wheelchair user, waiting around for a [disabled] role, there won't be that many," she said.