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TUC LGBT+ 2016: stand up for a press which celebrates diversity

5 July 2016

NUJ motions called for a BBC which had resources to reflect the LGBT diversity of the United Kingdom and condemned media commentators who the media who refused to acknowledge homophobia behind the Orlando nightclub killings.

Standing up for journalists who confront homophobia, Islamophobia and undue pressure from proprietors and editors was stressed in the NUJ’s contribution to this year’s TUC LGBT conference in London.

The delegation, of former president Adam Christie, freelance activist Guy Thornton and Equality Council member Eleanor Lisney, also made sure that the union’s presence was noticed.

As well as tabling one motion about the BBC Love it or Lose it campaign, the NUJ backed a second from Bectu highlighting the importance of continuing efforts to protect the BBC from government interference when proposals outlined in the recent White Paper return to parliament.The motion warned delegates:

"Conference is concerned that without adequate resources, programme makers will be unable to reflect the LGBT diversity of the United Kingdom in both news coverage and in other educational and entertainment output."

The importance of trade union organisation providing a collective strength from which to challenge inappropriate editorial or proprietary pressures was emphasised in an emergency motion condemning news outlets that had tried to exclude the homophobic dimension from coverage of last month’s mass murder at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The motion went on to praise individual journalists who had tried to challenge homophobia and Islamophobia while covering the incident and the consequences of the killings.

Adam Christie said:

“I’d been in the United States that week and I was able to tell delegates about the reaction there as well as condemn the way some in the UK had tried to return the LGBT community to invisibility by ignoring the homophobia.”

The motion, which called for campaigning for more inclusive education, accessible mental health services, effective press regulation and safeguards for UK gun control laws, was seconded by the University and College Union.
The NUJ also backed a call for greater positivity for trans people, offering assistance from the Equality Council in drafting guidance for those producing material or content following concerns from Unite.
Speaking to support a motion from the shopworkers’ union Usdaw, about engaging LGBT people in politics, Guy Thornton  told how, when he joined the Gay Liberation Front at Leeds University in the 1970s, it was unthinkable that so many in mainstream politics would be as open about their sexuality as they are now.
Guy was backing the Usdaw call for the wider trade union movement to encourage more LGBT members to become politically active, helping to address their under-representation in politics and to raise awareness of how LGBT rights have been won. He said:

 “Although great progress has been made we need to campaign for this and encourage our colleagues to do so too. We need to make sure LGBT matters are discussed in every political party. There is much to be done. Let’s get out there and do it.”

Orlando massacre 2016
  © NUJ

The conference coincided with London Pride and UK Black Pride weekend. Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said at the London Pride march:

“I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our LGBT brothers and sisters in Orlando. What happened just two weeks ago shocked and saddened us all. First and foremost it was attack on LGBT people and on the fundamental human right to live in peace, to love who you choose and to be who you want to be.

"Trade union support for Pride goes back a long way because, like you, we believe in equality, justice and freedom for all. Our shared values can be summed up in just one word: solidarity. We will always be stronger together, our fortunes rise and fall as one, and we advance furthest and fastest when we act collectively.”


Reflecting LGBT people and communities on screen

Conference notes the continuing impact on the BBC as the government threatens to impose changes to licence fee arrangements and the Royal Charter that undermine the Corporation as a major news organisation and cultural force in this country.

Conference is concerned that without adequate resources, programme makers will be unable to reflect the LGBT diversity of the United Kingdom in both news coverage and in other educational and entertainment output.

This conference welcomes the cultural evolution of understanding and tolerance that has significantly diminished the sensational outrage that once greeted those appearing on radio or television if their sexual orientation or identity became public.

Conference also fears that government moves to privatise Channel 4 would see a similar diminution of the way the UK’s LGBT people and communities are reflected on screen.

Conference calls on the TUC and all affiliated unions to (continue to) support the BBC ‘Love it Or Leave It campaign’ organised by the Federation of Entertainment Unions in order to protect the Corporation’s ability to cover and reflect LGBT diversity, both in the UK and in coverage of issues of sexuality and sexual identity elsewhere in the world.

Acknowledging homophobic crimes – reporting in the media

Outrages such as the Orlando mass shooting bring people together in solidarity with victims and their loved ones, in empathy and common humanity, and we expect no less. However, some still talk of “victimhood” and the “ownership of horror”. In the case of Orlando, this manifests itself as a reluctance on the part of some media reporters and others to acknowledge the homophobic nature of this crime.

This conference condemns elements of the media who refuse to acknowledge the homophobia behind the mass slaughter at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and similar events.  Simultaneously, this conference commends the endeavours of individual journalists, especially those belonging to their respective unions, around the world who – in the face of powerful political dissembling and editorial pressures reported fairly and sensitively, challenging both homophobia and Islamophobia in their coverage.

This conference calls upon the TUC and executive councils of affiliated unions to stand proud against Islamophobia and homophobia and campaign for:

  • more inclusive education;
  • press regulation that enshrines fair and accurate reporting (in line with the NUJ code of conduct) and upholds existing Ofcom requirements on broadcasters;
  • accessible mental health services; and
  • safeguarding strict gun control legislation.

Tags: , equality, tuc, lgbt+, homophobia, islamophobia, London Pride, UK Black Pride