On the 20th January The Minister of Culture, Communications and Creative Industries – Ed Vaizey – called a special meeting to address a problem that we’ve been going on about for years: The lack of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people (BAME) working in television and the media.

A lot of the TVCollective regulars were there including our very own Pat Younge and Marcus Ryder as well as other major players with an interest in diversity issues from Danny Cohen – BBC Director of Television to Kwame Kwei Armah.

The meeting primarily came about due to the recent SkillSet Census figures that showed things were getting worse for BAME people in the media and the very public pronouncements over the last few months by Lenny Henry that diversity in TV needs to improve.

At the meeting Lenny Henry circulated his proposal as to how the industry could be radically overhauled and diversity increased. It quickly became known as the “Henry Paper”. We have been able to get our hands on that paper which we now publish below.

Is this the roadmap for changing the face of British television?

THE HENRY PAPER

Increasing Ethnic Diversity Across The UK’s Media Output Based On The Success of Increasing Regional Diversity

OBJECTIVE: 

To learn the lessons from other diverse groups (most notably regional diversity) in the media as to how to achieve an increase in ethnic diversity.

BACKGROUND

The total number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people working in television and across the media has decreased by over 2,000 people from 2009 – 2012 representing just  5.4% of the work force. We believe that a large part of this has been caused not by an increase in prejudice and racism but by structural changes in the media industry.

The decrease in BAME numbers correlates (with an expected time lag) with increased production moving out of London (London having the highest BAME numbers in the UK).

Not only do we applaud the recent developments to ensure the broadcast and media industry is more regionally diverse, (despite the effects it may have had on ethnic diversity), we believe they hold the key to increasing BAME diversity.

THE BBC’S SUCCESSFUL MODEL FOR INCREASING REGIONAL DIVERSITY

1. Over the last ten years the television industry has been transformed with all major broadcasters successfully commissioning more productions from outside London.

2. In 2003 the BBC decided to introduce a number of systematic changes and incentives in order to increasing regional diversity. It recognised that the industry was unfairly London biased, meaning that important stories, different views and opinions across the whole UK are missed – both behind the camera and on screen.

3. In tackling the issue of regional diversity the BBC first had to define what constituted a “regional production”. It used three criteria – production spend, employee spend, and substantive base – and said that to be defined as a regional production any production would have to meet two out of these three criteria.

The BBC then accepted the following four principles and resulting actions:

a. As the entire population contribute to the BBC’s license fee the way the BBC spends the license fee should accurately reflect the percentage of the populations who pay it. For example if 9% of the license fee is raised in Scotland then 9% of the license fee should be spent in Scotland.  The BBC therefore decided to “ring-fence” money for spend in specific Nations & Regions for both the medium and long term to give both independent companies the confidence to set up in the respective regions in the knowledge that there will be a guaranteed income stream they can compete for and employees the confidence to plan their careers.

b. The BBC augmented (a) by recognising that it has ambitions for growing the independent sector (freelancers, independent companies, etc) in order to deliver hiqh quality, innovative and value for money programmes. Thus it needed to not only ringfence spend on internal BBC productions, but also ringfence spend on regional production and regional independent companies.

c. Regional companies are often disadvantaged by commissioning processes taking place in London – both through weak informal relationships and logistical barriers. The BBC therefore decided to introduce regional commissioners with the task of identifying and being a point of contact for regional productions where the formal and informal links to London based commissioners may be weak.

d. Last but not least, the BBC recognised that people and companies make long-term decisions when establishing themselves in regions or planning their careers. Thus, it would be ineffective to simply spread the commissions and types of programmes evenly and “randomly” across the board – as this might lead to short-term peaks and troughs in specific types of programmes (e.g. drama, current affairs, etc). Thus, they decided to create “Centres of Excellence” for specific genres to create a critical mass of expertise in each region.

THE PROPOSAL

1. Transposing the BBC’s regional diversity model to BAME diversity across the industry would involve the following three steps:

a. To define what constitutes a BAME production – i.e. Broadcasters should establish criteria as to how they will assess license fee BAME spend. This can easily be done with BAME criteria encompassing employee spend, production spend and substantive base (e.g. is the company majority controlled by BAME), with companies and in-house productions being allowed to self declare.

 b. To ringfence money – in both the medium and short-term for BAME independents and in-house employee spend. This would enable indie BAME companies to compete for commissions with confidence and employees to plan their careers.

c. To introduce BAME commissioners – to actively seek out BAME ideas and address both the institutional barriers and informal processes that BAME employees and companies face when trying to get their ideas commissioned.

2. Focus On Two Areas: Drama and Current Affairs. Finally, in order to demonstrate that this works, we would propose that the broadcasters begin by focusing on just two genres in increasing BAME representation: scripted drama/comedy and current affairs. Recent audience research suggests the largest divergence between BAME and white audiences in drama/comedy, and current affairs is possibly the most important genre for the needs and concerns of any population to be reflected and addressed. By concentrating our efforts this would also have the added bonus of creating a “critical mass” which is so vital in creating real change.

NOT JUST THE BBC

Although this paper has focused on the example of the BBC these initiatives must be industry wide – just as Channel 4 have also appointed Regional Commissioners and ensured that it commissions from non-London based indies.

To encourage this we could explore possible tax breaks for BAME productions or adapting the current Apprenticeship model to encourage employers to take on new employees.

Let us know what you think?