Owen Jones’s celebration marking 20 years since the excellent series Queer as Folk was first televised (Journal, 28 February) suggests that it was this groundbreaking programme that transformed gay representation on British TV.
In fact, the radical change happened in the 1980s on Channel 4. And this year is the 30th anniversary of C4’s Out on Tuesday (later OUT), the world’s first networked television series aimed at a lesbian and gay audience. It ran between 1989 and 1994 and was the culmination of work done by a lot of lesbians and gay men – campaigners, journalists, individuals and a very small number of us working in television – for more positive and more regular representation of us on TV.
The journey towards airing the programmes was a bumpy ride – involving questions in parliament, a campaign by anti-permissive-society activist Mary Whitehouse and tabloid newspaper hysteria – and it all unfolded as part of the response of the gay and lesbian community to the Aids crisis and the draconian section 28 anti-gay legislation.
The groundbreaking productions that changed broadcasting culture happened across more than a decade from C4’s inception in 1982. From One in Five in 1983 through My Beautiful Laundrette, In the Pink and Out on Tuesday to Dyke TV in 1994, our screens were opened up to gay stories. The responses of the millions of lesbians and gay men who watched the programmes were much like Owen’s “joyful revelation”.
The impact in broadcasting was felt at the BBC, which started to commission its own gay and lesbian series, and the groundwork was laid for all the wonderful dramas and documentaries that followed in later years, including Queer as Folk. None of these would have happened without the 1980s gay revolution in TV.
Commissioning editor, C4, 1985-95
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