A study has concluded that lesbian and gay people appear realistically and positively in only 0.6% of the most watched television shows in the UK.

Research, published by LGBT rights organisation Stonewall, has found that ordinary gay people are almost invisible on the 20 TV programmes most watched by Britain’s young people.

Just 46 minutes out of 126 hours of output showed gay people positively and realistically, said the organisation.

Three quarters of portrayal was confined to just four programmes: I’m a Celebrity…, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale and How to Look Good Naked, broadcast by the C4 and ITV1 channels.

BBC1 reportedly transmitted just 44 seconds of positive and realistic portrayal of gay characters or people in more than 39 hours of television programming.

Young people from across Britain interviewed by researchers for the study said that gay people on TV are largely stereotyped, lead unhappy lives and are bullied and rejected by their families. They also said they rely on TV to learn about gay people.

“It’s hardly surprising that there’s still almost endemic homophobic bullying in Britain’s secondary schools when, even if gay people do appear on TV shows watched by young people, they’re depicted in a derogatory or demeaning way,” said Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive.

The report, Unseen on Screen, found that half of all portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people was stereotypical, including gay people depicted as figures of fun, predatory or promiscuous. Where programming depicted homophobia, three fifths went unchallenged.

“It’s tragic that in 2010 broadcasters are still under-serving young people in this way, particularly when young people themselves say they want to see real gay people’s lives on TV,” said Summerskill.

Seventy one per cent of secondary school teachers polled by in the 2009 Teacher’s Report said that anti-gay language in the broadcast media affects the levels of homophobic bullying in schools.

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