The streaming giant and public service broadcaster have joined forces to develop and fund new dramas showcasing disabled voices over a new, five-year partnership.
The two companies will “consider projects from U.K. producers that have been created or co-created by writers who identify as deaf, disabled and/or neurodivergent,” they said in a statement. “We are looking for ideas which feel ambitious and elevated, and which challenge the limits that the industry might unconsciously put on disability. The intention of the partnership is to firmly place the shows alongside our most talked about and original dramas already being developed.”
The BBC and Netflix plan to make a webinar available to producers alongside a creative brief and outline of the process. The companies will assess pitches together although the BBC will act as an entry point for submissions and pitches.
The news comes just days after “Enola Holmes” writer Jack Thorne gave a moving MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival in which he condemned the television industry, saying it has “utterly and totally” failed disabled people.
“Gender, race, sexuality, all rightly get discussed at length. Disability gets relegated out,” Thorne said at the lecture. “Producers have ignored disabled writers. Commissioners haven’t taken the opportunity to tell disabled stories. There are very few disabled people in front of the camera, and even fewer behind it.”
“Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent creators are some of the least well represented groups on television in the U.K. Put simply, we want to change that fact,” said Anne Mensah, Netflix VP, series, U.K. “Together with the BBC, we hope to help these creators to tell the biggest and boldest stories and speak to the broadest possible British and global audience. It’s been hugely exciting to develop this project with Piers Wenger and the BBC drama team and we are incredibly passionate about the creative possibilities of this partnership.”
“Jack’s powerful, memorable MacTaggart has shone a revealing light onto the extent of the challenges faced by disabled creatives,” added Piers Wenger, the BBC’s director of drama. “We recognize the need for change and we hope that in coming together the BBC and Netflix have created a funding model which will help level the playing field for deaf, disabled and neurodivergent creators in the U.K. We would like to thank Anne and her team for the readiness and vision they have shown in coming on board to develop this initiative with us.”