At Screen International and Broadcast’s Diversify conference today, Aaqil Ahmed, commissioning editor for religion at the BBC, has said the UK film and TV industries should be “ashamed” of the decline in BAME representation in the creative media industries.
Ahmed lamented the findings of a recent Creative Skillset report, which highlighted a significant decline in BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic people) representation in the film and TV industries between 2009-12.
“We should be ashamed of those figures. But we don’t need figures to show us. We look around us and we can see it. It’s not just that the figures have gone down but it’s that you won’t get another Aaqil Ahmed - a working class, Pakistani boy from Manchester - coming through the ranks. Mono-cultural issues are getting worse. I feel ashamed, personally and as an industry we should be ashamed. I don’t think we care enough. This industry can make you feel very very lonely if you’re not from a certain background.”
The lively panel - titled Are the Film and TV Industries A Closed Shop? - chaired by Baroness Oona King, also included Simone Pennant of the TV Collective, Derren Lawford, commissioning executive, London Live, Justin Edgar, co-founder of 104 Films, Matthew Justice, managing director, Big Talk, and Sara Hanson, head of corporate responsibility, ITV.
“We remain too much of a mono-cultural media industry,” stressed King. “No where is the link between creativity and diversity clearer or more important than in the creative industries.”
All panelists agreed that there needed to be more joined-up thinking at all levels of the industry.
“Once and for all we need to link the talent to the production,” continued King. “It isn’t rocket science. The industry needs to take responsibility to bring people together, a producer like Matthew who is looking for diverse members of his production team and Simone who has a membership of 40,000. We’re wasting too much time and resource otherwise.”
“We need to do a collective audit of what diversity schemes are out there and measure the impact and success of these schemes,” added Hanson.
Former BBC and Livity executive Lawford called for an adjustment to recruitment policies: “If you make it performance related, so that senior executives don’t get their bonus if they don’t recruit X amount of people from minorities, I think people might perform better in that area.”
Edgar said that the industry remains a closed shop for many people with disabilities: “Physical access remains the biggest problem: access to film sets, access to edit suites, for example…We’ve spoken to the BFI about having to have a trainee from a diverse background on every film set. People are till afraid to have disabled people on film sets.”
Audience member Joyce Adeluwoye-Adams, head of diversity at PACT, questioned the role of commissioners in the diversity debate: “Producers are the suppliers. Commissioners are the buyers. Commissioners need to tell their suppliers that they want more diversity. It’s not rocket science. That’s key when thinking about joined up thinking.”
A former BSAC executive, also in the audience, lamented the impermanence of the CDN executive, which changes chair every two years: “There is no permanent organisation devoted to driving diversity. I’d like to suggest that the broadcasters and film industry finance such an organisation to kick this thing along.”