'We should not stereotype': New guidelines for producers provide the following advice on how to portray women, the disabled, homosexuals and other groups

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The Independent Online
Common concerns

Programmes should draw their participants or casts from a broad range and not concentrate unreasonably on able- bodied white men.

It is important that BBC programmes should not regularly categorise black people as criminals, women as housewives, disabled people as victims, homosexual people as ineffectual, old people as incapable or people of any particular profession, vocation or walk of life as inevitable figures of fun.

We must be careful not to perpetuate stereotypes by thoughtless use of material which associates groups with particular patterns of behaviour.


Casting women in narrow or secondary roles for no good reason can annoy and offend. Fewer than 5 per cent of UK households consist of a working husband with wife at home looking after school-age children.

We need to avoid using words that date back to days when women were barred from many types of work (busmen, policemen, taxmen, newsmen, manning). There are always comfortable alternatives which are not sexist (bus-drivers, police officers, tax inspectors, journalists, staffing). It is always possible to rewrite a sentence to avoid sexism and political correctness.

Ethnic minorities

'Black' should not normally include Asians. BBC programmes should refer to 'black and Asian people' or 'Asian, African and Caribbean people'. We should never say 'non- whites', just as we do not say 'non- blacks'. Some African and Caribbean people prefer to be called black British.

Use the term 'black people' rather than 'blacks'. 'Coloured' is usually inappropriate and offensive.


'The disabled' is often perceived as offensive. It defines people as a problem group rather than as people. 'Disabled people' is acceptable to some but others prefer 'people with disabilities' as emphasising the person first and the disability second. BBC programmes use both.

People with an intellectual disability are now normally described as 'people with learning difficulties'. 'Mental handicap' is acceptable to some people but others dislike it because they believe it carries a stigma.

Sexual orientation

Programme makers should remember that homosexuals experience the same range of emotions as heterosexuals and play the full range of roles in society. They have the right to see that truthfully portrayed. Be sensitive to the effect of language. 'Homosexual' has wide currency. 'Gay and lesbian' is often preferred and is certainly acceptable.