New research finds people with disfigurements are rarely shown on UK television or film.
Monday, March 30, 2009
The research found that people with disfigurements are rarely shown on UK television or film.
New research by Dr Claire Wardle and Dr Tammy Boyce of Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies into media coverage and audience reception of disfigurement on television, was presented at a panel discussionon on Monday March 30 in London and hosted by Society Guardian.
Following two years of research, the report, indicates that most people (both with and without personal experience of disfigurement) would welcome more representations of those with disfigurement on television.
The report also concludes that TV producers should find new ways to challenge societal ignorance and discomfort about disfigurement, to remove the taboo and stigma attached to it.
The research found that people with disfigurements are rarely shown on UK television or film. When they are, in fiction they are often cast as villainous characters such as the infamous Freddie Krueger or The Joker, or reclusive types forced to hide from society such as the title character from Phantom of the Opera.
Dr Claire Wardle commented, “Television has a responsibility to make the invisible visible, and to move away from a 'freak show' visibility to an everyday visibility, where people with disfigurement are not just visible, but also have a voice”.
8,650 hours of television footage
The schools media monitoring facilities, which record and provide access to thousands of hours of television for analysis, were ideally suited to the research effort as 8,650 hours of television footage were reviewed. In addition 17 focus groups and interviews with 16 media producers looked at how disfigurement is represented in television.
The research was funded by the Healing Foundation, a national, medical research charity in partnership with the Wales Office of Research & Development, part of the Welsh Assembly Government.
In an exiting new development the findings were addressed at a panel discussion and their implications for broadcasting. The panel was chaired by Sarah Montague of BBC Radios 4’s Today Programme.
Panel members included Simon Dickson, (Deputy Head of Documentaries, Channel 4) and Hilary Salmon, (Senior Executive Producer, BBC Drama Production) while an invited audience of leading figures in broadcasting, commissioning and news editors, script writers and people with disfigurements discussed the findings.
Media Coverage and Audience Reception of Disfigurement on Television Final Report [3.12MB]
Media Coverage and Audience Reception of Disfigurement on Television Executive Summary [1.87MB]