I AM NOT A VICTIM by Marcus RyderBy admin
I have just signed off the final cut of “Born To Lead” a film about guide dogs that will be broadcast on Monday the 28th March on 19.30 BBC1 Scotland. It is a very straight forward documentary; Ian Hamilton is a much loved blind reporter for BBC Scotland, his old guide dog is being retired and he needs to find a new dog.
The challenge for Ian and the producer when making the film is how we should represent visually impaired people. At the beginning of the film Ian was adamant about one thing, he did not want blind and partially sighted people to be portrayed as victims.
Yes the film needs to expose how difficult it is for visually impaired people to lead independent lives, (we’ve uncovered new and alarming stats as to how many visually impaired people never leave their homes).
Yes the film needs to give an accurate picture of how a ten minute walk down the street for most people can turn into a marathon for visually impaired people due to the increase in “street furniture”.
And yes the documentary has to show how emotionally distressing it is when a person loses their friend and partner (their guide dog) who they have relied on for years and needs to find a new dog.
But the message Ian Hamilton wanted to get across loud and clear is, “blind people are not victims”. I think most people from diverse backgrounds want to tell television decision makers a similar message. It is important for TV producers not to portray large sections of the population as victims with white middleclass people being the norm.
People from diverse backgrounds want stories that reflect the reality of racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and disability prejudice but these are simply aspects of their lives, these things don’t define their lives.
With this thought at the forefront of the production team’s minds the team started production on “Born To Lead” knowing that they didn’t want to make a simple story on guide dogs reminiscent of a Blue Peter Special, they wanted to produce something with a more current affairs grittier edge. But they didn’t want to produce a film just about the problems the visually impaired face.
As the executive producer I think the team succeeded in going beyond victimhood journalism, and the reality is it’s difficult to portray the people who appear in the film as victims. Ian Hamilton (BBC reporter), David Blunket (ex-cabinet minister), Peter White (Radio 4 presenter) and Scottish DJ Mikey Hughes (Big Brother contestant) may face challenges but “victim” isn’t the first noun I’d reach for when discussing them.
The challenge I face however as a regular blogger for the TVCollective is how can I write about the issue of diversity in the media without coming across as a victim? Yes we face challenges as programme makers and yes there is prejudice in the world of television but I don’t wake up every morning thinking “Life as a black producer is terrible”, far from it. Like my reporter Ian Hamilton diversity is an issue in my life – it doesn’t define my life.
Editor Current Affairs BBC Scotland