Diversity, in particular cultural diversity, or should I say the lack of it, seems to be on trend again. Ever since Skillset published its employment census highlighting the number of ethnic minorities leaving the industry, the subject yet again has dominated the industry consciousness.
It was only this weekend Labour MP Chuka Umunna said black actors are leaving Britain to escape ‘lazy stereotypes’, last week, the BBC’s DG Lord Hall was asked what the BBC was doing to improve programmes for black audiences. He said he wasn’t satisfied the BBC appeals enough. Later this month Bafta is hosting Diversify. Chaired by Baroness Oona King the event is billed to be “one of the most significant of its type and is a must attend for anyone concerned with improving equality in the workplace.”
But as these discussions are trying to support your needs do you feel part of the debate?
Recently I invited to participate on the BBC’s Radio 4’s Media Show alongside Pat Younge, the BBC’s most senior black executive, and Journalist Bim Adewunmi to discuss Lord Hall’s comments. I have also been asked to join a panel debate at Diversify discussing whether the film and TV industries are still a closed shop.
Now don’t get me wrong, whilst I’m truly honored to asked to participate in these debates, the optimist inside me prays the industry will come to its senses and finally open the floodgates for both talent and content. But my overwhelming sense of realism knows I have experienced a decade and a half of having the same conversation resulting in little change, I’m going to have to dig deep to drum up the enthusiasm or find something to say that will add real value to the debate.
Wasn’t it Einstein that said ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’! At times I feel like this diversity issue has been sent to ‘mad us’!
As I’ve pondered how my contribution can make a difference, an overriding thought keeps niggling me in the back of my head – How do you solve a problem like ethnicity? And Who really cares?
Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the importance of ensuring the industry truly reflects the changing face of British society both on and off screen… blah… blah…blah. But members of the creative industry from a diverse background have been battling with this debate since the 80’s. In 2013 with the access to all the new technologies and platforms to access content and share your work, do you actually care?
Once upon a time if you wanted to watch your favorite tv programme you would have to turn on the box in the corner of your room and tune into one of the three, four then five TV channels. If you wanted to make programmes to go on that said box you would have had to have the ‘right’ type of upbringing, attended ‘Oxford or Cambridge’ and preferably be a white male.
Fast forward to 2013 you can watch your favourite TV programme anytime or anywhere at a click of a button whenever you want. If you have an idea for a programme, with a healthy dose of imagination, determination, a camera, or even a mobile phone, within a hot minute you can be sharing vision or producing the type of programmes you want to make with the world.
Previously it was difficult to generate an income this way, but with an audience and an understanding the emerging digital economies, or sticking a couple of googleads on your page, even with just 1000 fans you can generate a modest income. OK, maybe not inline with BBC or Channel 4 budgets but enough to spur you on to the next project.
The Jamal Edwards of these worlds are no longer one-off’s. More and more content producers are gaining audiences, signing up subscribers and winning commissions (link to Samuel benta profile).
It is in fact the industry that should be really concerned, as audiences continue to switch off their televisions and satisfy their content needs online. The firmer they keep the doors shut will only inspire greater creativity. It will be necessity and its mother invention that will eventually force the industry to share their audiences and ultimately their profits.
So whilst achieving diversity in the mainstream creative industry is always important, I for one no longer need permission, an endorsement, or even a conversation about the type of content I want to make or watch.
The only real question is ‘how much do you believe in your talents and your ideas?’ Once you’ve answered that, a healthy dose of imagination, and determination will take you the rest of the way.
Over the coming months we will be exploring ways to harness our 40,000 strong community and help you, not only showcase your work, but also generate an income from it. Make sure you’re signed up to our newsletter as more details are coming soon……..