Page last updated at 04:29 GMT, Saturday, 14 November 2009

Disfigured newsreader for Five

James Partridge, chief executive of Changing Faces
The charity is experimenting with what audiences will accept on TV

A charity chief with a facial disfigurement will read the news on Channel Five for a week in an attempt to try to break down prejudice.

James Partridge, who is chief executive of Changing Faces, suffered severe burns in a car accident aged 18.

He will front the Five News lunchtime bulletin for a week from Monday.

A YouGov survey for the station found 44% of respondents thought it would be a good idea for people with facial disfigurement to present TV shows.

Some 64% of those surveyed said disfigurement would not cause them to change channel, but one fifth said they would feel uncomfortable seeing a disfigured presenter.

'Welcome addition'

Mr Partridge launched Changing Faces in 1992, to give support and representation to people with disfigurements on the face or body.

The charity's head of campaigns, Winnie Coutinho, said: "We believe that television can play a big role in changing attitudes and breaking down prejudices.

"Changing Faces is keen to learn whether the public would really accept someone with a disfigurement in this role once they see James Partridge reading the news next week."

Five News editor David Kermode said: "James makes a welcome addition to our presenting line-up for the week that he is with us.

Victoria Wright
Victoria Wright was diagnosed with Cherubism as a young child

"We are all looking forward to working with him and, at the same time, creating some debate around an important issue in society."

Victoria Wright has had a rare facial disfigurement called Cherubism since childhood, and is also involved in campaigning with Changing Faces.

She said the move was ground-breaking and should not be seen as a publicity stunt.

"I like to think of it as a kind of pilot, to see whether if it works maybe broadcasters can perhaps have a newsreader with a facial disfigurement or a disability in the near future."

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