Whenever Channel 4 attempts to involve disabled people in anything other than a heartrending documentary or hard-hitting current affairs programme, it's never long before someone pops up to label it a "freak show". Let's take a calm look at the facts behind the latest "Disgraceful insult of a beastly show" (Sunday Telegraph, 22 August) a factual series provisionally entitled Beauty and the Beast and due to air on Channel 4 early next year.
More than half a million people in the UK live with severe facial disfigurement. We are afraid to look them in the eye. We are cruel to them whether actively abusive or by patronising and excluding them, making lazy assumptions about their lives and capabilities.
Meanwhile, less than 2% of young women in the UK are satisfied with the way they look and last year we spent more than £600m on cosmetic surgery.
What the independent producer Betty has come up with inspired by a young man with facial disfigurement who came to the company on work experience is a frank and engaging way to challenge vanity-obsessed beauty-holics to look beyond the mirror and question what being beautiful really means.
This six-part series developed in collaboration with a number of charities that deal with disfigurement, especially Changing Faces will put six contributors who live with facial disfigurement together with six beauty-obsessed contributors and take them through a process of considering their attitude to beauty in themselves and others.
Oh, and by the way, that young work experience chap who has a brilliant telly mind, and has a great career ahead of him is on the production team, is the main contributor in the first programme and has an on-screen role in a strand investigating aspects of society that disfigured people are excluded from.
This is Channel 4 at its best: developing disabled talent behind the camera as well as putting on screen a cast of strong articulate disabled people with something to say about a major issue affecting the whole of society. And, just as we have with shows like How to Look Good Naked, The Sex Education Show, Hollyoaks and Cast Offs, Beauty and the Beast will bring mainstream audiences to people and subjects too often ignored and excluded from our screens. Looking ahead, our build-up programmes and coverage of the 2012 Paralympic Games will continue in that vein.
So, please, enough confected outrage about a show nobody has seen, enough about freak shows and plumbing new depths. It's time to confront the real problem: prejudice is the beast; this series declares war on that and on beauty fascism.
And I declare war on lazy journalism!
Alison Walsh is Channel 4 disability director