In April 2014, TV personality Lenny Henry announced plans to lead the public in a protest at the lack of diversity in the media industry. Shortly after, the BBC pledged to increase the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic people on air by more than 40%.
A joint industry campaign, Project Diamond, was launched in November 2015 to monitor diversity across the BBC, Channel 4, IVT and Sky. However, Henry confirmed in 2017 that just 9.5% of people working for BBC Studios are black or Asian, with just 6.1% in senior positions.
Henry proposed a radical idea for reform in the industry: tax breaks for diversity. A similar model has been implemented in New York with tax credits for TV productions increasing diversity in key roles. Giving a keynote speech at MIPCOM 2017, the British comedian, writer and actor addressed the ongoing issue.
“Without diversity [in front of and] behind the camera, certain stories are not being told,” he said. “The histories of our disparate society are not being recorded. And in the end, the way we are governed will only favour the people whose stories and concerns the politicians hear about…The need for diversity in front of and behind the camera is urgent for the social fabric of society.”
Although tax breaks might not yet have been taken on, Henry’s campaign has gained traction in the industry. Collating the data on TV productions across the board, Project Diamond reports 21.5% of on-screen contributions from the black, Asian and minority ethnic in 2018. The project will continue working with Diamond broadcasters to promote diversity in the media industry and increase this figure.
In 2017 the Diversity Awards were set up to recognise diversity in individuals and organisations within the media industry. The media industry is changing, isn’t it time you became a part of it?
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