U.K. public service broadcaster BBC has set out a ‘Creative Diversity Commitment’ that will see the corporation spend £100 million ($124 million) of its existing commissioning budget over three years on diverse and inclusive content.
The fund will apply to a range of genres, and will also include children’s programming, education and current affairs. It will support the BBC’s Diversity Code of Practice, and commit the corporation to create content with at least two of the following three priorities: diverse stories and portrayal on-screen; diverse production teams and talent; and diverse-led production companies. Progress will be reported in the BBC’s Annual Report.
The BBC will also instate a mandatory 20% diverse-talent target across all new network commissions from April 2021.
The commitment comes just one day after more than 3,500 members of the U.K.’s film and TV industry, including “Luther” star Idris Elba, “I May Destroy You” creator Michaela Coel and actor Colin Firth, signed an open letter demanding “strategic commitments” to representation.
“With this commitment, the BBC is throwing open its doors more widely than ever to diverse stories and diverse storytellers,” said the org. “The media industry is not changing fast enough. The BBC has been committed to creative diversity and inclusion for 100 years; but we now want to go further.”
Outdoing BBC director general Tony Hall said, “The senseless killing of George Floyd — and what it tells us about the stain of systemic racism — has had a profound impact on all of us. It’s made us question ourselves about what more we can do to help tackle racism — and drive inclusion within our organization and in society as a whole.
“This is our response — it’s going to drive change in what we make and who makes it. It’s a big leap forward, and we’ll have more to announce in the coming weeks.”
June Sarpong, newly installed director of creative diversity, added: “I came to the BBC as an outsider. Before joining, I had an idea of this being an organization that did not want to change. What I found was something different: an organization that had ambitious goals for diversity and inclusion but didn’t know how to reach them. This commitment will help to drive real change that will be felt by all audiences. It will also create a strong framework to help diverse storytellers succeed at all levels of the industry.
“As director of creative diversity, I’m pleased that we’re announcing this fund as the first of a series of bold steps that will help make the BBC an instrument of real change. As a black woman, I feel and share in the pain that so many are feeling worldwide. It makes it all the more important that we show up now not just with words but with meaningful action.”
Recalling a conversation with “Small Axe” director Steve McQueen, Charlotte Moore, director of content, said the filmmaker had challenged her and the BBC to set “meaningful targets and take proper action.”
“He was right. Today’s announcement represents a truly transformational commitment to both on and off screen representation. Concrete, tangible action is the only way we can bring about real sustainable change,” said Moore.
The BBC will also set out further plans in other production areas in the coming weeks, in addition to a host of other action items on the org’s list going forward:
- The corporation has said it plans to run regular meet and greets across the country, to enable talent from traditionally under-represented minority groups to engage with BBC staff and external suppliers who shape the creative output.
- It is also working towards developing a “comprehensive diverse digital database” for the industry, and an accelerator program for on and off-screen diverse talent.
- The BBC will also work with the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative on the ‘Belonging Blueprint’, a project aimed at establishing new practices to create wider access to entertainment industry jobs for traditionally marginalized individuals.
- The broadcaster will also continue to prioritize investing and developing diverse leaders at the BBC. The newly appointed senior leadership advisors — two per leadership group — act as senior executives and bring fresh perspectives to each leadership board. They will receive development and training over the next year while they are in post.
- Meanwhile, the Creative Diversity Unit, led by Sarpong, will publish a new strategy over the summer. The strategy will support the Belonging Blueprint, and the inclusion toolkit, a set of guidance and tools to help the BBC’s creative staff and industry partners ensure diversity and inclusion is at the heart of production.
- Later this year, the BBC will also publish a detailed Diversity Commissioning Code of Practice report at the same time as the Annual Report and Accounts.