In a bid to create a “further catalyst for real and sustained change,” ABC Entertainment has set forth a slate of new inclusion standards for all primetime series to “ensure multidimensional representation across the entire creative and production process.”
The initiative is meant to increase diversity both on screen and behind the scenes. In a letter to creatives and colleagues, ABC executive vice president of development and content strategy Simran Sethi laid out the new inclusion guidelines and offered up a database of diverse and underrepresented talent and crew, as well as a list of vendors owned by members of underrepresented groups.
“These new guidelines are intended to make our content and our sets as inclusive as possible, and will serve as a further catalyst for real and sustained change,” wrote Sethi. “We want to take this moment to evaluate systems and habits in an effort to remove barriers to access and opportunity. It’s important for us to look around the room, see who’s not there, and then take the steps to not only bring them in, but also set them up for success.”
There are four separate sets of standards that span on-screen representation, creative leadership, below the line workers, and industry access and career development.
When it comes to on-screen talent and characters, the mandate asks creatives to fulfill at least three of five guidelines. That could include having 50% or more regular and recurring written characters from underrepresented groups, 50% or more regular and recurring actors from those groups, and “meaningful integration” of underrepresented groups in the overall themes and narratives in a series. Similar criteria are asked of below-the-line crew and creative leadership, including half or more of episodic directors or producer-and-above level writing staff coming from underrepresented groups. In the career development arena, criteria include paid employment opportunities, showrunner participation in Walt Disney Television talent development initiatives or guild mentorship programs, among other possible actions. (An image of the standards can be found below.)
The network hopes to reach those goals incrementally, with the aim of meeting two of four standards by May 2021, three-quarters by Oct. 2021, and all of four standards by May 2022. The studio is offering showrunner training, inclusive hiring advice and other resources to help creatives meet the new guidelines.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported news of ABC’s inclusion standards.
ABC’s mandate echoes CBS’ recent efforts to foster more diversity, which includes a 25% resource allocation of future script development budgets to projects created by or co-created by BIPOC, and new effort to ensure that CBS writers rooms staffs are at least 40% BIPOC.