Monday, February 21, 2011

A Media Milestone

TMW logo

A quick word of congratulations to Trans Media Watch, the educational group which sets out to help journalists, writers, editors, producers, directors and the like to manage a better job of accurately representing and portraying trans people.

The group has developed a so-called Memorandum of Understanding (MOU for short) which media organisations can sign up to, setting standards which they agree to try and maintain.

And the MOU is going to be launched in early in March, at a special reception hosted by Channel Four TV.

Great and good

The reception will be attended by an array of figures from government, media, related industries .. and, of course, the trans community. Speakers so far confirmed include:

  • Lynne Featherstone MP (Parliamentary Secretary of State for Equalities)
  • Hilary Third (Team Leader Equalities Scottish Parliament)
  • Stuart Cosgrove (Head of Programming and Creative Diversity C4)
  • David Allen Green (Media lawyer) on Human Rights and Privacy

And the guest list includes (besides myself)

  • David Abraham, Chief Exec of Channel 4
  • Tim Davie, from the BBC's executive board
  • Victoria Atkin, who plays Jason (the trans character) in Hollyoaks
  • Representatives of the Times, Independent, New Statesman, The Stage, the LGBT press, Women in Journalism and the NUJ
  • Stephen Whittle (Professor of Equalities Law)

.. plus many more figures from the media world.

Still a lot to do

It all seems a far cry from the days when used to work in this sphere and produced a report entitled "Transsexual People and the Press" [PDF], which achieved a minor change in the Editors' Code of Practice published by the Press Complaints Commission.

That was in 2004 and, certainly, it's not time to celebrate too ecstatically yet. Some tabloid newspapers still delight in publishing material which is blatantly discriminatory. TV directors and presenters still make excruciating -- basic -- errors, through laziness, arrogance or ignorance.

However, I'm full of admiration for the progress that a new generation of campaigners have made, in building bridges and creating big advances like this launch.

Thanks to their individual and collective efforts we've seen the Guardian newspaper (once heavily criticised in my 2004 report) running a groundbreaking series of fortnightly articles, in which a young trans woman, Juliet Jacques, writes thoughtfully and perceptively about her process of gender transition.

The whole series "A Transgender Journey" appears in the Life and Style Section.

Juliet also recently consented to an in-depth interview for the Just Plain Sense Podcast, where she discussed the whole issue of Trans People and the Media. You can play the show directly below.

What next

Having signed up Channel Four, the team at Trans Media Watch are now working to get other media organisations on board too. Talks are already going on with the BBC and ITV.

It's important to remember that signing these organisations up to the Memorandum is no guarantee that they won't occasionally get things horribly wrong.

Big media organisations employ thousands of people ... programmes are often commissioned from independent makers or bought in from abroad. Mistakes will be made. It may take years ... and there are dozens of major organisations to talk to and sign up.

All changes must start somewhere though, and the businesslike organisers of TransMediaWatch are to be congratulated on achieving this milestone.

I'm looking forward to being a guest to see some history being made.


Denise Anderson said...

Look forward to catching up with you there Christine :)


Katrina said...

Reading and Listening Hopeing and Praying watching and Voiceing Voteing just Being.

SarahL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SarahL said...

Thank you for this, Christine and thank you also for urging caution. The BBC alone has 26,000 employees. There are many minds to reach.

A brief summary of the MOU can be found on our website. I hope soon that there will be a link to the whole document:

Also our Style Guide should soon be posted.

Rather than being prescriptive or seeking to censor language, the purpose of both these documents is to identify areas and [in the case of the Style Guide] terminology where offence may be caused or privacy invaded. It is then up to individual journalists to decide whether this is their purpose. We find ... outside the realm of the tabloids ... that offence is usually down to a lack of awareness and information.

What TMW emphatically does not set out to do is define the individual identities of trans people ... rather to ask the media not to prjudge or assume but to listen to what trans people say about themselves and to allow them the same degree of respect they would accord to anybody else.

Inevitably we ourselves may not always get this right but we will always try to listen.

Sarah Lake

Richard Beard said...

Christine - excellent summary! Look forward to seeing you there. Richard