Credit: Channel 4

Channel 4 announces plan to “strengthen the portrayal of disabled people” on TV

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Channel 4 has published a new “Disability Code of Portrayal” strategy which the channel believes is a first in broadcast media in the UK.

The plan is split into two different sections: ‘Commitments for Programmers’ and ‘Commitments at a Portfolio Level’.

At a programme level, the broadcaster commits to, among other things, giving disabled people agency and to “represent being disabled as a valid identity” whilst not “overplaying or underplaying” disability.

The new Disability Code of Portrayal outlines six commitments at a portfolio level which are:

  1. Ensuring that the programme always has input from a disabled person and that this person is given a senior role as a consultant, or is placed in a senior position within the production team.
  2. Increase the “volume of representation” – in practice, this will mean that every series has at least one presenter, guest or performer who is disabled, with the preference for more than one individual to showcase the wide variety of disabilities that exist.
  3. A range of “portrayal types”- this means that sometimes the disability of a character will be mentioned as part of the narrative, on other occasions, the character’s disability will not be discussed in a series. There is also an option for “integrated portrayal” where disability will be discussed at some points in a programme but will not be discussed in other segments.
  4. “Offset any tropes” – if a trope is required as part of the genre of programming this will be offset.
  5. Peer review – integrated portrayal and incidental portrayal against stereotypes and alignment with the programme level code of portrayal.
  6. Favour inclusively disabled shows above exclusively disabled shows.
Image Credit: Channel 4

The new strategy follows the publication of the ‘Engage & Enable’ disability strategy by Channel 4 last year.

Ally Castle, Channel 4’s Disability Consultant said: “We firmly believe that the commitments we are making today will take the inclusion of disabled people in our content to a different level, far beyond cliches, tropes and stereotypes.”

Channel 4’s Chief Content Officer Ian Katz today said: “After ten years of successful Paralympic coverage, it’s now time for a step change at Channel 4 across all our portfolio, in terms of both the quantity and quality of disability representation in our content.” 

The full document can be read here.

Featured Image Credit: Channel 4

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