The TV Collective founder Simone Pennant has questioned the validity of the licence fee at a Creative Week panel on the lack of diversity in the film and TV industries.
Pennant, whose organisation The TV Collective has tens of thousands of members, told the audience: “There’s so much talk around this issue but if we don’t have real progress, I think a lot of our membership will ask ‘why should I pay for something like the licence fee?’. If they aren’t going to service or support our needs then why should we pay? People are getting very despondent and are dropping out of the industry because they are tired of this issue.”
Pennant, who was speaking on a panel about practical ways producers can make productions more diverse, added: “The way the BAME community is perceived needs to change. I get too many requests for runners and researchers.”
Film producer Damian Jones, whose credits include The Iron Lady, Kidulthood, and more recently period-drama Belle, in which Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as the mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral in 18th century England, described the wariness from some industry backers about funding Belle.
“Some sales companies said that the film’s theme, the mixed race lead, and the black writer and director meant the film wouldn’t sell in Japan, Germany and other territories and that it wouldn’t play at certain festivals,” said the BAFTA-winning producer.
Jones praised the UKFC’s Diversity Fund and anticipated the BFI’s relaunch of a similar fund this year.
Michelle Matherson, talent executive at Shiver, said the glass ceiling for BAME executives remains a pressing issue: “There are a lot of good entry level schemes but I find that BAME professionals get to AP level but often can’t make that jump to PD. There are very few BAME SPs in the business and you can count the execs on one hand. It is disheartening.”
Priscilla Balfour, 4 Talent coordinator for Channel 4 concurred: “Mid-level and senior-level at Channel 4 is now our priority. It’s time to up the game and take it to the next level.”
While acknowledging the size of the problem facing the industry, Creative Skillset executive director Kate O’Connor highlighted the Skills Investment Fund as a means by which producers are attempting to make productions more diverse.
The panel lauded the work of entry level scheme Creative Access, which was also represented on the panel.