The UKs Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic TV Task Force has held talks with the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, and is preparing for meetings with Netflix and Amazon just days after publishing a letter demanding action on racial equality.
The group, which sprung up last month amid the Black Lives Matter movement, is lobbying for fundamental change in the television business to stamp out racism and improve representation for diverse storytellers on-screen.
They wrote to the government and broadcasters, streamers, including Netflix, the BBC and Sky and the wider industry, demanding an increase in diversity on TV. The letter gathered 1,200 signatures from industry influencers including Fleabag actress Sian Clifford, Kidulthood star Femi Oyeniran and Pat Younge, an industry veteran and the former chief creative officer of TV production at BBC Studios.
According to Deadline, the group has already met with BBC director general Tony Hall, director of content Charlotte Moore, BBC Two controller Patrick Holland and June Sarpong, the public broadcaster’s diversity chief. Around the same time, the BBC made a pledge to spend £100M ($125M) on diverse content.
ITV director of television Kevin Lygo and Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon have also sat down with the BAME TV Task Force. The group is also scheduled to hold talks with Ben Frow, the director of programs at ViacomCBS Networks UK, and Scottish broadcaster STV, while conversations with Netflix and Amazon will take place in the coming weeks.
It’s a sign of how seriously the industry is taking the letter, which called out casual and blatant racism, railed against tokenism and nepotism, and demanded networks introduce BAME quotas among commissioning and production teams. The Task Force is hoping the meetings convert into “root and branch systemic change.”
It said: “The fact that Tony Hall, Charlotte Moore and Alex Mahon were able to meet us within five days of the letter being sent feels like a really positive indication for making real systemic change going forward.”
The task force’s proposals included:
- An increase in the number of BAME commissioners to 25 per cent across all genres
- 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 per cent by the end of 2021
- Setting up an independent body for workplace grievances to encourage employees to report their experiences without fear of repercussions
- Making monitoring mandatory for development and production, broken down into non-editorial and editorial roles
- A new and improved yearly report on the percentages of BAME talent working in various roles
- 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
The task force said these proposals were “a good starting point for discussion and that they will be a catalyst for real change”.
The BAME TV Task Force was established by producers Carissa Jumu (pictured), Vivian Eguridu, Jacqueline Baker and Abby C. Kumar. The four have credits including Netflix’s The Circle USA and Channel 4’s First Dates.