Broadcasters are being encouraged to sign an agreement to increase the positive portrayal of transgender people on television.
The memorandum of understanding has been drawn up by Trans Media Watch, a voluntary group set up to combat prejudiced and inaccurate depictions of transgender people.
It is aimed at all media outlets – including newspapers and broadcasters – and follows a conference held last year, at which both the BBC and Channel 4 admitted that transgender people were missing from television programmes because of commissioners’ lack of confidence and understanding about the issue.
Channel 4 has so far pledged to sign the agreement. The BBC and ITV – although behind it in principle – are understood to be considering the document from a legal standpoint.
The agreement claims it provides a “set of standards to be applied internally within signatory organisations” and will establish “standards for interaction between those organisations and transgender members of the public”.
Those who sign up pledge to eliminate ‘transphobia’ in the media, end the provision of misinformation about transgender issues and increase “positive, well-informed representations of transgender people”.
Jennie Kermode, from Trans Media Watch, explained: “These are key guidelines to help people approach these issues in a responsible way, which should not only help people to avoid mistakes, but help them feel these are issues they can address without getting into trouble.”
The agreement – to be officially unveiled in March – points out that the size of the transgender population in the UK is around 1% to 2% of the general population, and argues that transgender characters frequently appear in shows as “stigmatised stereotypes”.
It adds that there are “disproportionately few portrayals of ordinary transgender people getting on with their lives”. The agreement calls on broadcasters to show the section of society in a positive manner and to generally increase its visibility.
Kermode insisted Trans Media Watch was not advocating censorship in terms of broadcasters showing dramas that tackled sensitive issues.
She added: “We want to give people the tools to approach these issues responsibly. We don’t expect we will agree with every aspect of broadcasters’ output, and we are sure there will be diversity of opinion among transgender people about what is acceptable and what is not. But we are trying to show people where the problems are so they can take a responsible approach.”