Paralympian Chris Holmes Urges for U.K. TV Diversity, End to ‘Clone Recruitment’

EDINBURGH — U.K. TV needs to wise up about diversity or it will be “knocked off its perch as a world leader,” according to former Paralympian Chris Holmes.

Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Holmes called on execs attending the gabfest, which wraps on Friday, to end the “culture of clone recruitment.” Diversity — or rather the lack of it in both British and American TV — has been a recurring theme at the festival.

Television must end “the revolving door of appointments of people who look the same, think the same and went to the same schools and universities,” said Holmes as he launched new guidance to help foster greater diversity in British TV.

He described the issue “as a stubborn stain on the industry’s reputation” and said that “until progress is actually delivered, the perception that TV is still dominated by a ‘luvvie’ mafia dominated by white, middle-class men will remain.”

Holmes launched a new set of guidelines backed by the British Government, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and U.K. media regulator Ofcom.

The guide, Thinking Outside the Box, outlines some basic principles of equality and shows how TV companies can use databases containing people’s personal details such as race, disability and gender to monitor diversity.

“During my time at Locog, running the 2012 Paralympics, we made huge strides in increasing the diversity of people working on the games and all the associated jobs around the event, including broadcasting, where Channel 4’s coverage led the way,” he said. “There’s no reason why one creative industry can do this while another makes excuses.”

“So I welcome the clear targets and action plans put forward, but I don’t want this to be just another diversity initiative which falls by the wayside.”

Showtime President David Nevins said that his network had a “lot of work to do” in reflecting America’s racial diversity in Showtime content while speaking in Edinburgh on Thursday.

However, Holmes praised U.S. TV for being creative in depicting disabled people and African Americans on the small screen.

“It’s clearly not a difficult hurdle to cross, when producers put their mind to it, they come up with fantastic content,” he said. “I’m not talking about niche programs focused on ‘diversity issues’ aimed at a specific audience.”

“Think about how well it’s been done in the States: RJ Mitte’s nuanced and compelling portrayal of young disabled man Walt Junior in ‘Breaking Bad’ or seminal dramas like ‘The Wire’ and you realize this isn’t a choice between better representation and better programs.”

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