Channel 4 led the gay revolution in TV | Letter

Caroline Spry remembers the television channel’s pioneering programmes

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.
Caroline Spry
Commissioning editor, C4, 1985-95

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition

Letters

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Channel 4 should make Salford its home | Letter
Letter: The television industry needs a counterweight to the pull of London, writes Wayne Garvie, president of international production at Sony Pictures Television

Letters

28, Oct, 2018 @5:36 PM

Article image
Channel 4 could thrive as a social enterprise | Letters
Letters: Peter Holbrook suggests an alternative to privatisation, while Peter Grimsdale points out that if the Tories sold off the broadcaster they would be trashing a bit of their own heritage

Letters

24, Jun, 2021 @4:50 PM

Article image
Pitfalls of the BBC using independent production companies | Letter
Letters: The corporation already works with independents and is highly innovative, but is hampered by government policies, writes Steve Elliot

Letters

25, Sep, 2020 @3:44 PM

Article image
Don’t let tech giants bury public service TV | Letters
Letters: Public service television shows must remain easy for audiences to find, say the heads of ITV, the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, STV and S4C

Letters

15, Oct, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
TV offering for LGBT viewers is impressive | Letters
Letter: Allegra Madgwick agrees with Owen Jones that Queer as Folk was groundbreaking, but says there is more out there

Letters

01, Mar, 2019 @4:19 PM

Article image
Jade Goody, reality TV and the vilification of the working class | Letters
Letters: Len Hughes, Jonathan Hauxwell and Ann Tobin respond to the Channel 4 documentary on the reality TV star

Letters

12, Aug, 2019 @4:24 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on privatising Channel 4: it makes no economic sense | Editorial
Editorial: The arguments put forward for selling the broadcaster don’t add up. The impetus is ideological – and wrong-headed

Editorial

23, Jun, 2021 @5:37 PM

Article image
BBC impartiality is under threat from all sides | Letters
Letters: The corporation is in danger of commercial censorship, writes Dr Kevin Bannon, Elizabeth Budd believes BBC TV news is increasingly cautious, while Nick Nuttgens thinks journalists are asking the wrong questions

Letters

11, Oct, 2020 @3:17 PM

Article image
BBC’s well-received history of Ireland | Letter
Letter: In 1972 the BBC made a 10-part series entitled Ireland: Some Episodes From Her Past, writes Giles Oakley, who was a researcher on the series

Letters

14, Mar, 2019 @6:25 PM

Article image
EU rules mean it’ll be lights out for acts like Beyoncé | Letters
Letters: Pretty much every single tool that we use as lighting designers will be rendered obsolete by these rules, writes lighting designer Tim Routledge

Letters

30, Apr, 2018 @5:21 PM