The Mormon-affiliated broadcaster BYUtv has finally agreed to lift its “unwritten” ban on LGBT+ characters in TV shows.
The channel, which is owned and operated by the Mormon college Brigham Young University, conceded its anti-LGBT+ policy after Canadian writers and producers publicly voiced concerns.
The broadcaster’s first show to feature queer people will be the Canadian family comedy Overlord And The Underwoods, it announced on Thursday (8 April).
“Our upcoming series Overlord And The Underwoods will have LGBTQ characters,” BYUtv’s Canadian producer Marblemedia confirmed in an email to NOW.
“We have been having conversations with BYUtv about LGBTQ representation in future seasons of [made-in-Canada shows] The Parker Andersons/Amelia Parker.”
According to showrunner Anthony Q Farrell, who has a queer daughter, he and his writing team were previously told they couldn’t include clearly identified LGBT+ characters due to the channel’s connections with Brigham Young University.
The university is the flagship educational institution of the Mormon church and specifically prohibited “homosexual behaviour” on campus until a few months ago.
This discriminatory section of the university’s Honour code has now been removed, but BYU later confirmed that its principles against sexual conduct “remain the same”.
Unlike the university BYUtv had no written policy against queer characters on set, Farrell said, but it was certainly spoken aloud.
“It’s one of those things where they couch it in a way where they say, ‘We’re not ready for it.’ They know that they have to progress at some point, but they’re worried that their audience is not ready to go there,” he said.
“That to me is still saying you can’t do it.”
BYUtv reconsidered its position after the showrunner raised his concerns in an interview with NOW, which was released last week.
“If it wasn’t for [that article] they’d still be saying our audience isn’t ready,” Farrell believes. “Now they’re in a place where they have to make some changes to be able to work in this country.”
A spokesperson for BYUtv said in a statement: “As a young network committed to bringing together religious and non-religious audiences, BYUtv is learning and exploring ways to partner with diverse content creators, writers and talent to implement meaningful co-viewing experiences for our target audience (children 8-15 and their parents).
“While BYUtv has not referenced LGBTQ+ topics and characters in the five original scripted series it has aired to date, we desire to address subjects—including LGBTQ+—that are important to our growing and diverse audience.
“There are no policies that would exclude the network from including characters who identify as LGBTQ+, and BYUtv is exploring ways to do so.”