Action needed on disfigurement in media

Action needed on disfigurement in media

Appearance, Discrimination and the Media is the third title in the Media Policy Brief series from the CAMRI Policy Observatory. This extract by the authors explains some of the background issues and why it has emerged as a growing concern. 

There is a range of examples where policy is linked with issues around appearance: following the vote by nearly one million people in 2016 in the UK Youth Parliament’s ballot, who pointed to ‘body image’ as one of the top ten issues, the Parliamentary Youth Select Committee held dedicated sessions in July 2017 to debate related concerns. † Internationally, several countries, including Italy, Spain and Israel, have legislated on underweight models.†† France – another country that has implemented similar laws aimed at banning the hire of extremely thin models – introduced mandatory health check requirements for workers in the fashion industry. The new French law also obliges the labelling of digitally altered images in tackling the propagation of unrealistic ‘beauty’ standards.†††These policy initiatives reflect the necessity of specific targeted measures to address looks-related prejudice and to make the principles of equality and diversity work in practice. Many of these problems originate in the prevalent culture of obsession with appearance, which has a number of harmful consequences. Body image-related concerns in their variety of forms often cause serious mental and physical health issues.†††† In the UK, disability hate crime offences increased by 101%, from 1,531 in 2014-15, to 3,079 in 2016-17. †††††  According to the Editors’ Code published by the Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO): ‘The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability’.

Additionally, the code states: ‘Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story’.†††††† Yet, people with a visible difference are systematically misrepresented in the media.

Using Open Access and a concise, easy-to-read format, this peer-reviewed series aims to make new research from the University of Westminster CAMRI media researchers available to the public, to policymakers, practitioners, journalists, activists and scholars both nationally and internationally.

† Garrisi, D. and Johanssen, J. 2017. Youth select committee inquiry: body image-related issues one of the young people’s top ten concerns.’CAMRI. The Policy Observatory. 10 July. Available at: concerns/.

†† BBC France passes bill banning ‘excessively thin’ models. BBC News,18 December 2015. Available at: world-europe-35130792 (accessed July 2017).

††† Ibid; see also †

†††† Instagram ‘worst for young mental health’. BBC News, 19 May 2017. Available at: (accessed July 2017); Media is fuelling eating disorders, say psychiatrists. BBC News, 22 February 2010. Available at: hi/8528443.stm (accessed July 2017); see †.

††††† Kiteley, P. and Robinson, B. 2017. ‘Disabled children hate crime reports increasing.’ BBC News, 15 October. Available at: (accessed November 2017).

††††††  ‘Editors’ Code of Practice.’ Independent Press Standards Organisation: (accessed May 2018).



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