Success for Channel Five news experiment


The disabled boss of a disability charity has been presenting a daily national news bulletin in a bid to challenge prejudice and raise awareness of facial disfigurement.

James Partridge, chief executive of Changing Faces, who has a facial disfigurement, was presenting the lunchtime news for Channel Five every day this week.

Five News said there had been an “overwhelmingly positive” reaction from viewers, while Changing Faces said they were “still reeling” from the experiment’s success.

The charity has recorded three times the usual number of visits to its website this week, while the bulletins have secured international attention, with media coverage in Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Spain.

Changing Faces said it had been told that viewing figures for the lunchtime bulletins had “remained stable” compared with previous weeks.

Winnie Coutinho, head of campaigns and communications at Changing Faces, said: “It feels like the general public are very open to this and have been overwhelmingly positive.

“What we are hoping is that broadcasters will see that there is not anything to fear from doing this.”

She said viewers had not been distracted from listening to the news by Partridge’s disfigurement.

The charity will now aim to meet with other broadcasters to pass on the results of the experiment.

Before the broadcasts, a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 people commissioned by Five News revealed that less than half of those questioned thought it would be a good idea to have people with facial disfigurements presenting TV shows.

But when given a list of common facial disfigurements a presenter could have, nearly two-thirds said none of them would cause them to change channel.

David Kermode, editor of Five News, said: “James has done incredibly well and we are delighted with the overwhelmingly positive response from our viewers.

“After a successful week of broadcasts, the challenge now is to address how we take this forward to the next level.”

In a blog written before the first bulletin, Partridge said he was hoping to “challenge people to become aware of their culturally-determined reflexes”, and become “more informed, less quick to recoil”.

19 November 2009