A letter (see link here) proposing ways to remedy the lack of diversity in the British television business has been sent to the U.K. government, broadcasters, streamers, and other bodies in the industry, and signed by almost 1,000 people.
The letter, sent to Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, among others, was composed by the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic TV Task Force, a support group representing people of color working in the industry.
In their letter, which was written “in direct response to the murder of George Floyd and subsequent global prominence of the Black Lives Matter Movement,” the group identifies many of the issues that people of color – usually referred to in official British parlance as “Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic” (BAME) – have to contend with in the industry, including “a culture problem within television.”
It outlines widespread casual and sometimes blatant racism in the business, and points to the common perception that diverse talent on-screen is often framed as a “risk,” although the success of diverse shows like “Luther” suggests this is not the case. It also touches on how roles are often framed in stereotypes, such as the nerdy Asian egghead.
Behind the scenes, there is also the issue of tokenism, the letter states. One BAME person is expected to speak for all the BAME communities, to find the “great BAME characters,” and “educate their white co-workers when they are being offensive.” “They are shoved into a box that requires them to be BAME specialists,” it says.
It points to the lack of BAME execs in senior position, and states, “We need a diverse workforce in order to create diverse content.” While the group welcomes some of the initiatives that have been put in place, it says “more work needs to be done,” adding, “the BAME workforce are rarely, if ever, consulted.”
The objectives and proposals for action are as follows:
To increase the number of BAME TV commissioners and promote BAME led authorship by January 2022.
• Increasing the number of BAME commissioners to 25% across all genres.
• A specific budget given to commissioning teams to develop new series from BAME-led indies and development teams.
• A commitment from broadcasters to hire BAME talent at all levels on productions – including directors, producers, execs and writers, aiming for 20%.
• They welcome the BBC’s proposal of adding two BAME members to their senior leadership teams this year, and would like to see this introduced across all broadcasters including their executive committees.
A formalized recruitment process
• They propose a clear place where channels and production companies post their jobs that can be accessed externally.
• Increasing the number of BAME talent managers to 20% by the end of 2021.
Independent reporting procedure for workplace grievances
• They propose setting up an independent reporting body for workplace grievances, encouraging employees to report their experiences without fear of repercussions.
Improved workforce monitoring
• They propose that monitoring is mandatory for both development and production and broken down into non-editorial and editorial roles.
• A new and improved yearly report on the percentages of BAME talent that are working within these roles should be published.
Mentoring schemes and training
They propose by Summer 2021 establishing:
• A year-long mentoring scheme for mid-level workers with networking events, leadership training, an industry mentor, and events for the alumni of the scheme over the following years.
• A production training scheme aimed at mid-level workers to advance to senior roles on productions.
• A BAME commissioner training scheme for each channel which has tangible commissioning editor jobs on completion of the scheme.