Holby trying to get its house in order?

We had some good news in our efforts to engage the BBC on the topic of the representation of women-loving women this week: the corporation’s CEO, Tim Davie, responded to an email sharing our open letter, with assurances that it would be read by senior members of the production team, and a response would be forthcoming. After nearly two months of campaigning, it was a welcome breakthrough.

Mr Davie’s interest certainly seems to have been noticed at the Holby production offices, too: today, just a day after his email to us, I’ve received a letter (signed only ‘Holby City’) ostensibly responding to an email that I sent to the series’ Executive Producer, Simon Harper, on 1 February.

It seems rather odd that my email should prompt a same-day response, only on paper rather than by electronic reply. Odder still that when I emailed the Executive Producer for BBC Continuing Drama Kate Oates a few days later, this didn’t alert anyone to the fact that the letter hadn’t been received. And then somehow it turns up 18 days later.

For context: when I contacted Holby City‘s former series producer Kate Hall in April 2018, she responded within four days – and even then, apologised for the delay. She provided her PA’s email address, and I typically received a response to my emails (to either of them) within hours. That continued even until August, when I let Kate know that Sapphic Angst Fest had been shortlisted for an award. When I submitted my complaint about the negative and stereotypical portrayal of queer women on Holby in December and January, I sent it on paper via Royal Mail, yet I received an email in response.

So this printed reply seems unusual, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it was sent not at the start of February but hastily dropped into the post yesterday.

It’s also a frustrating letter, since it is written as if my email was a complaint, which it was not. My complaint, submitted via the proper channels, was sent as a viewer; in my email, I wrote on behalf of the women organising as #BerenaDeservedBetter. I made it clear that I would be delivering an open letter and other materials detailing what Berena had meant to viewers, and was looking to engage with Mr Harper and others on how this sort of breakdown of relations between series and fans could be avoided in future. I offered my own expertise and that of others in helping to improve the representation of women-loving women.

Whether or not the response was genuinely sent on 1 February, it is hugely disappointing to see a senior production figure handling this contact as if it were a complaint. Especially considering that the CEO has, at least it appears for now, recognised it differently – and apparently with more gravity. For more than two years, Holby City has positioned itself as a show to be taken seriously on matters of representation, as being made by people who care about what they can do for LGBTQ+ audiences. Now it seems it takes a phone call from the CEO, not an outcry from viewers, to prompt them into action.


One thought on “Holby trying to get its house in order?

  1. It is extremely disappointing. It is disrespectful to you personally, someone Holby City welcomed when you were writing an academic article about positive wlw representation. It is disrespectful to the nearly 300 people who signed the open letter you were delivering.

    Sending a letter now dated February 1 has the appearance of lacking integrity from someone in a leadership position. While a February 1 date is laughable at one level, it is also cringeworthy and damaging to the reputation of BBC Holby City.

    It seems to be a knee-jerk, defensive reaction that is disrespectful and lacking integrity, much like all the other responses so far from BBC Holby City (with exception of 1 writer in December). I’m hopeful the BBC CEO will follow-up with true engagement.

    I continue to be flummoxed. We all will benefit from a dialogue that is mutually respectful and open to new understanding so that wlw stories are better and good representation is a reality.

    Thanks to all at #BerenaDeservedBetter for your tenacity.


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