BBC director of content Charlotte Moore has said on- and off-screen diversity has “never been more important” to the public broadcaster, while admitting that the BBC “does not reflect the nation that we are making our programs for.”
Speaking as part of a ‘Meet the Controller’ session with the Edinburgh TV Festival on Monday — a fully virtual affair that kicked off with an intensive focus on diversity and representation — Moore continued, “We won’t meet the challenges of the next few years if we don’t make diversity an absolute priority, and on BBC One, it really is.”
The executive — who was in the running for the top director general job at the BBC earlier this summer but ultimately lost out to Tim Davie — talked up recent diverse BBC shows like “Noughts + Crosses,” “I May Destroy You” and “A Suitable Boy,” and presented a preview of Steve McQueen’s upcoming series “Small Axe.”
“These shows have taken a long time to reach the screen but I hope they show the direction of travel,” Moore said. “That’s across all our output; we are absolutely committed.”
Earlier on Monday, the first panel of the Edinburgh TV Festival was a lively debate titled ‘Does TV Need a Black Controller?’ which moderator Marcus Ryder, chief international editor at CGTN News Digital and diversity campaigner, hoped would set the tone for the rest of the festival.
Ryder pointed out that while the debate around diversity in the TV industry had reached “fever pitch,” nothing appeared to have changed, stating that at the Edinburgh TV Festival 12 years ago, there was a panel discussion titled ‘Find Me A Black Controller.’ “Yes, it’s ‘Groundhog Day,’ 12 years on,” said Ryder.
The panel of Black executives, comprising veteran producer and development executive Michelle Matherson (“Hospital”); Jacqueline Baker, co-founder of the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic TV task force; Miranda Wayland, head of creative diversity at the BBC; Lucy Pilkington, managing director of Milk and Honey Productions (“Take Your Knee Off My Neck”); and Renowned Films’ Duane Jones (“Pranksterz”) agreed that while a Black controller would indeed make a difference, a deeper systemic change was necessary in order to truly reflect multi-hued U.K. society.
Ryder pressed Wayland on the BBC’s recently announced $124 million investment in diverse content, assessing whether the amount is ring fenced.
“We’re actually working to make sure that we can offer clear guidance and criteria that stipulates what we believe is diverse for production, content portrayal and on screen,” Wayland responded. “We wouldn’t constitute it as ring-fenced money, but if all those parameters put together helps the industry believe that we are committed and focused on delivering against our commitment, then I’m happy for that to be considered.”
“What we need to do is, very, very quickly, change what gets on air, and once that is changed, that will bring more people through the industry and start to address some of those issues that we were talking about — about who is actually in the industry in the middle, and coming up towards the top,” said Pilkington. “So, I think we need to throw everything we’ve got at it at the moment, because we cannot afford to slip back to what the last decade has been, which has been in many ways disgraceful when it comes to diversity.”
Jones said that the newer platforms like Netflix are more open-minded when it comes to working with diverse talent, while Baker said that public service broadcasters shouldn’t be “let off the hook.” Referring to the ViacomCBS ‘No Diversity, No Commission’ initiative, Baker suggested that the model be expanded to all broadcasters.