Make sure you tell broadcasters - and us - about programmes you find offensive

What broadcasters should do

If programme-makers had the courage to take the plunge and be more imaginative in terms of casting and writing characters, seeing people with unusual faces could just become a regular thing and not frightening at all. But the impact on all of us would be extraordinary.

Changing Faces believes that television and the media can play a big role in changing attitudes and breaking down prejudice around disfigurement. We want to increase the visibility of people with disfigurements in everyday and public roles on television.

To do this, broadcasters need to commit to

  • including more everyday coverage of people with disfigurements (as extras or characters in soaps, as participants on game-show, commenting on current affairs)
  • examining whether their current representations of disfigurement are based on stereotypes and assumptions about disfigurement
  • examining whether the language, tone and imagery regarding the portrayal and coverage of disfigurement is offensive, derogatory or prejudicial in any way
  • redressing imbalance, stereotyping and offensive coverage

Why do broadcasters need to know?

Broadcasters need to hear from people with disfigurements about how they feel when disfigurement is sometimes associated with ugliness, evil, danger, dullness, lack of intelligence and cruelty.

Some examples of the typical portrayals of people with disfigurements on television include

  • people with facial scarring, burns, birthmarks and other conditions often being presented as nasty, tragic, reclusive or shadowy characters in drama
  • it being rare to see people with disfigurements on entertainment shows either as guests or hosts
  • the acquisition of a disfigurement being a common device used by writers to write characters out of a series.
  • newsreaders and narrators in documentaries often using negative language and imagery when describing disfigurement: “He was horribly disfigured in a car accident”; “she is hideously scarred”; “his life has been ruined by disfigurement”
  • titling of some documentaries being reminiscent of 19th century freak shows and can actually encourage viewers to view people with disfigurements as abnormal, such as ‘The Undateables’ and ‘Adam Pearson: Freak Show’
  • music and lighting is often sombre and dark to create a sinister or tragic mood whenever a character with a disfigurement appears

What can you do?

To make a difference to how disfigurement is broadcast

  1. Send broadcasters our guidelines to ensure disfigurement related stories are portrayed in an informed, fair, unbiased and non-prejudicial way.
  2. Make your voice heard and your presence known to broadcasters if
    • You can sing and have a disfigurement apply to go on entertainment shows e.g. XFactor, MasterChef etc
    • You are an aspiring actor and are unsure about how to get into the industry because of a disfigurement – don’t give up on your dream. Apply to drama school, go to auditions, badger casting agencies. Changing Faces can support you with this.

If you see or hear something on TV which is discriminatory or offensive towards disfigurement let the TV channel know. Include the following information to help them track down where you saw or heard it: the date, time, title of the programme, your postcode, why it offended / pleased you and what you would like to see them do differently. Make sure you tell us, too – send us an email or call 0345 450 0275.

How to feedback

The major broadcasters can be contacted in the following ways:

Don’t forget to share your views with Changing Faces on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what action you are taking.