BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar has received an apology from two British newspapers, The Times of London and Mail Online, for falsely claiming he had “close links” with disgraced actor and director Noel Clarke.
Following sexual harassments allegations against Clarke from twenty women, which were made in the Guardian newspaper on April 29 of this year, The Times ran a story titled: “Bafta boss Krishnendu Majumdar worked with scandal star Noel Clarke on diversity.”
The piece focused on the fact that BAFTA had decided to award Clarke a prize for outstanding British contribution to cinema (OBCC) on April 10 despite having been made aware there were allegations brewing against Clarke. BAFTA later explained they had decided to present Clarke with the award because of lack of evidence regarding the allegations.
BAFTA said the story in The Times “implied that because both the Chair and Clarke are men of colour, this also influenced the decision to present Clarke with the OBCC award. Both claims were baseless.”
Mail Online reproduced the story on their site, also focusing on the relationship between Majumdar and Clarke.
BAFTA confirms it “made a legal complaint to both publications in defamation given there were no ‘close links’ between the Chair and Noel Clarke. Outside of BAFTA, the Chair has never met or worked with Clarke. They are not friends or business associates.”
As well as issuing an apology, The Times has agreed to pay damages. BAFTA said “Mail Online is expected to follow suit.”
Today Majumdar also sent BAFTA members an emotional letter, in which he reflected on the “incredibly challenging” past year.
“I personally have been subject to false, misleading and damaging accusations in the press about BAFTA’s handling of the Noel Clarke situation,” he wrote, adding the accusations have been “extremely distressing to me personally and damaging to BAFTA.”
“I raise this because I, like everyone else on a BAFTA committee or the Board, am a volunteer who has a day job – I run an independent production company,” Majumdar continued. “I volunteer because I feel hugely passionately about the vital work that BAFTA does in supporting talent across the film, games and television industries. I have been inspired by the way the BAFTA staff have remained focused on our mission to continue this support and to nurture young people and those from underrepresented groups by transitioning our events programme and initiatives online during the pandemic.”
Today BAFTA also released the results of its compulsory global membership survey, which found fewer than 50% of members were women and only 12.2% were from minority ethnic groups. The organization has vowed to actively address areas of under-representation.
Read Majumdar’s letter in full below:
A year ago, when I wrote to you for the first time as BAFTA Chair, I could never have predicted what a tumultuous and challenging year lay ahead of us, not just for our industries but also for individuals, families and communities the world over. Looking back, it’s astonishing how creatively and nimbly our industries have reacted, not only to the Covid-19 pandemic but in response to the seismic cultural and societal shifts that also occurred. And it’s because of your ingenuity, determination and fearlessness in the face of such challenges that I am incredibly optimistic about the future of the film, games and television industries.
BAFTA has had to adapt, too, not only to the events of the last year but also by being unequivocally proactive in order to remain relevant to our industries and audiences. BAFTA has committed to use its influence to drive a more progressive and inclusive industry culture, one that is representative of the world in which we live and enables all those with creative talent to thrive in a safe and respectful environment.
For a long time now, BAFTA has been working hard to level the playing field for all talented people – whatever their background – to succeed in our industries through our year-round learning programmes. We can point to the success of such trailblazing initiatives as BAFTA Breakthrough, which we have expanded into the US and India recently, and all our work supporting talent from underrepresented groups.
We responded to the lack of diversity in the nominations for the 2020 Film Awards candidly and constructively. Our independently-verified BAFTA 2020 Review, published in September, announced over 120 meaningful changes to our voting, membership and campaigning processes. I believe the sessions with contributors that informed the Review highlighted some uncomfortable home truths and marked a moment of reckoning. We have embraced its recommendations and we have already seen their impact on the 2021 Film Awards and the Television Awards earlier this month. This has not been a box-ticking exercise. All winners and nominees have been recognised and celebrated because of their world-class talent. The awards are reflecting long–overdue shifts in the film and TV industries to correct underrepresentation, and the changes BAFTA has made are helping to level the playing field so that all talent and all stories are seen and treated equally.
There is more work to be done, and this is about making long-term changes within our organisation, too. Today we are announcing the results of our first global membership survey and we are recommitting to the membership diversity targets that we set out in the Review. The survey is helping us identify and address areas of existing under-representation in our membership in order to achieve our vision for a more inclusive organisation that simply better reflects our society.
We’re not complacent. We still have a lot of ground to cover with diversity and inclusion, both as an organisation and an industry, but I hope in the changes we have made in the last year you can see our determination to truly represent the lives and experiences of all our audiences.
Another area where the industry has a lot of work to do concerns harassment and bullying. Everyone at BAFTA is horrified by the recent allegations of abuse in our industry. It has highlighted an urgent need for better industry support for those who have suffered abuse as well as a safe, neutral and trusted space for complaints to be reported. And it has shown that we all need to take an honest and unflinching look at how the culture of our industry has enabled this abhorrent behaviour to continue.
We have been transparent about the circumstances that led to the Board’s decision-making around Noel Clarke’s Special Award and I hope you read in detail our letter to members on 30 April. We have taken our role in this very seriously and tried at all times to do the right thing. We spoke to the police and Time’s Up UK and followed their advice. We responded directly to everyone who approached us and provided advice and independent confidential support for those women who were brave enough to come forward to us.
To put this into some context, as Broadcast magazine has since reported, some of the major broadcasters and production companies who employed Noel Clarke were contacted with the same anonymous, generic allegations around the same time. They, like us, couldn’t take action until they had the information to do so, which in this case was when detailed allegations from first-hand accounts were published in The Guardian.
A month later we were sent a number of very serious and detailed allegations about another BAFTA member, Charlie Hanson. We referred the matter to the police and in this instance, based on the specific information we were given, we were able to suspend his membership immediately. Both Clarke and Hanson have denied all the allegations.
BAFTA is an arts charity, not a regulatory body. We do not have the power or the resources to investigate claims of abuse, historic or otherwise. However, BAFTA has been a lightning rod for the issue of harassment and bullying in our industry to be talked about. This has been a wake-up call. What is absolutely clear is that many individuals have suffered abuse and there is now an urgent need for a consistent and trusted industry-wide approach to responding to these types of allegations. People need to know where and how to report them, and they need to feel completely safe and supported in doing so.
BAFTA has joined Time’s Up UK in a call to the industry to come together to address this issue. With our industry partners, including the BFI, we are convening a high-level summit to discuss and agree upon the changes needed to better safeguard all those working in the screen industries and stamp out this abhorrent behaviour for good.
This is a moment of truth and shame for the industry. I hope it can also be a turning point for positive change. It is up to us – as an industry, as an organisation, as individuals – to rise to the challenge. People should no longer look away or cower before powerful individuals or fear to report them. The leaders in our industry must listen and make a stand. In partnership with the BFI and other industry organisations, including Bectu and Time’s Up UK, BAFTA is accelerating its work to encourage employers to follow the bullying, harassment and racism prevention guidance that we previously put in place. Within BAFTA, we are ensuring we have robust procedures in place to deal with any future complaints regarding BAFTA members. We are also conducting a review of the processes governing awards that are in the gift of the Academy, and we have paused the Special Awards and Fellowships until this review concludes.
The last year has been incredibly challenging on many levels. I personally have been subject to false, misleading and damaging accusations in the press about BAFTA’s handling of the Noel Clarke situation. Today The Times newspaper and the Mail Online have both issued apologies to BAFTA and myself for defamatory articles that had wrongly stated that I had ‘close links’ with Noel Clarke. The article in The Times also made a point of mentioning I am a man of colour and implied this was somehow linked to BAFTA’s decision-making on Noel Clarke. This is categorically untrue and has been extremely distressing to me personally and damaging to BAFTA. The articles have been removed, The Times has agreed to pay damages and costs, and the Mail Online is expected to follow suit. You can read their apologies and BAFTA’s response here.
I raise this because I, like everyone else on a BAFTA committee or the Board, am a volunteer who has a day job – I run an independent production company. I volunteer because I feel hugely passionately about the vital work that BAFTA does in supporting talent across the film, games and television industries. I have been inspired by the way the BAFTA staff have remained focused on our mission to continue this support and to nurture young people and those from underrepresented groups by transitioning our events programme and initiatives online during the pandemic. I was delighted such inspiring events as BAFTA Young Game Designers and Guru Live still went ahead and proved to be so successful, while all our globally celebrated Awards took place in some form or other. We couldn’t have continued our mission to support talent in achieving their potential despite the challenging circumstances of the past year without the generosity and encouragement of our staff, members, partners and sponsors.
Looking ahead, the newly redeveloped BAFTA 195 Piccadilly is set to play a significant role in our ability to support and nurture even more talent when it reopens later this year. With double the capacity and featuring cutting-edge technology, BAFTA 195 will be a world-class, state-of-the-art centre that we hope will inspire generations to come. Without the expanded programmes that BAFTA 195’s redevelopment will make possible, large numbers of talent may leave the industry and this would have a devastating impact on the future talent pipeline. The building’s new tech will also benefit members who live outside of London and are unable to use the new club facilities regularly by providing digital access to our year-round event and content programme online.
BAFTA is also looking forward to the conclusion of its three-year project to bring together our colleagues in Los Angeles and New York with the creation of the consolidated BAFTA North America. This will provide an amazing opportunity to increase our reach and impact on a global scale and, in particular, galvanise the connections between our US and UK operations. Next year will also see BAFTA renew its commitment to the children’s media industry with the Children’s Awards returning in 2022 as well as a dedicated weekend of BAFTA Kids activities.
I’d like to say a special thanks to the remarkable Pippa Harris for all the care, time and energy she has poured into BAFTA as Deputy Chair. There could not have been a more eloquent and passionate supporter of BAFTA’s work and I am deeply appreciative for her wisdom and all the advice she has given me over the past year. I am delighted to confirm Sara Putt as the Deputy Chair of BAFTA for the year ahead. Sara has been an ardent advocate for BAFTA over many years serving a total of six years as Chair of the Learning, Inclusion and Talent Committee and seven years on the Television Committee including two years as its Deputy Chair. I look forward to working with her.
With a focus on the positive, I believe there are many more opportunities ahead for creative renewal. As an industry organisation, spanning three art forms and multiple generations of talent, BAFTA has shown it can effect meaningful change. As we approach our 75th anniversary in 2022, I’m hugely grateful for the continued support of our members. You are at the heart of BAFTA and your energy, experience, creativity and commitment fuels everything we do. Thank you all – you are what makes BAFTA so special.