This week it’s all about calls for greater diversity, from the BBC to ITV to Channel 4; from the Henry Plan to The Act for Change Project; from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to EastEnders….
Taking the calls for greater diversity to Parliament
Three friends of the TVC spoke the truth to power last week when Director of WeCreate Associates and former Chief Creative Officer of BBC Television Production Patrick Younge, comic and actor Lenny Henry and Head of Current Affairs of BBC Scotland Marcus Ryder give evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport committee.
Henry told the Culture, Media and Sport committee that there was “fatigue” because 29 previous initiatives had not worked.
“People have lost hope and don’t believe one more initiative will achieve true diversity… Things are being done but they’re not really working.”
“We’ve got people who can tell that story now.” he continued: Development is great but there are people who are trained and ready to rock with these stories. The inference seems to be ‘oh, you’re not ready yet. Here’s a bit of development money, go away and come back when you are ready.”
To watch their testimony in full, click the window below.
ITV trailer inspires The Act for Change Project
Henry, Ryder, and Younge have support from actor Danny Lee Wynter. He’s been out of drama school for seven years, and during that time, he says, has watched prospects for Black and ethnic minority actors in Britain steadily worsen.
Cast in 2007, aged 25, as the teenage lead opposite Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith in Stephen Poliakoff’s twin BBC films Joe’s Palace and Capturing Mary, he has since seen his career stalled and thwarted by the scarcity of auditions, let alone half-decent roles or star-making lead.
“It’s the worst it’s ever been out there,” Wynter, 32, told London’s Evening Standard last week. “My experience is deeply frustrating but it’s totally the norm.”
That frustration boiled over earlier this year when he happened to catch a now notorious Where Drama Lives trailer for ITV’s new winter season.
“It lasted a minute or so, which is long for a trail, and there wasn’t a single BAME actor in it. Not one. It was a complete whitewash. Why do we see an image perpetuated on TV of a UK that isn’t actually the UK we live in? I didn’t feel it reflected in any way what I knew to be true.”
Angry and out of work, Lee Wynter gathered some colleagues and friends — among them Ruth Wilson, David Morrissey, David Harewood, Don Warrington and Sophie Okonedo — and founded The Act for Change Project, a pressure group that seeks not only to make visible the “unseen” BAME actors but also to discuss seriously the “quality of visibility” on offer to them and other actors discriminated against because of class, disability, sexuality or gender.
The Act for Change Project wants production companies to audition at least one BAME actor for every leading role — and to give explicit reasons why if they won’t — with broadcasting regulator Ofcom ensuring compliance by 2016. No programme should be exempt, not even a historical drama.
This Monday the Project is formally launched with a conference at the Young Vic, at which Steve November, ITV’s head of drama and the man with ultimate responsibility for that trailer, will answer questions.
In case you missed it, here’s that lilywhite trailer for ITV- Where Drama Lives.
David Harewood tells Channel 4 news – ‘If I wasn’t in Homeland I’d be a bus driver by now’.
Last Saturday, part of the The Act for Change Project, actor David Harewood shared his frustrations with Krishnan Gurumurthy on Channel 4 News. Watch that interview here.
EastEnders is too white, says BBC Trust chief
And with this groundswell of opinion, even the TV execs are admitting that things are not rght on the diversity front. Last week the acting head of BBC Trust revealed that EastEnders is twice as white as the real East London and does not represent “kaleidoscopic” modern Britain.
Diane Coyle, acting head of the BBC Trust and frontrunner to take over on a permanent basis, said the ethnic make-up of the fictional Walford was out of sync with Walthamstow, the borough on which the soap is partly based.
Coyle said the BBC must reflect the fact that “the fabric of our society and our population is changing”. “And the BBC needs to try to reflect that so that today’s teenagers, whether they’re in Cardiff or Cornwall, Davenport or Dalston, all find someone or something that speaks to their identity.
“Earlier this year, the Audience Council for England gave a presentation to the Trust which compared the population of Walthamstow in East London with Walford – the fictional home of EastEnders.
“The cast of EastEnders is one of the most diverse on British television. So it was interesting to see that even so it differs from the real East End population.”
The Audience Council figures “suggested that there are almost twice as many white people living in fictional E20 as in real life E17, while the population of EastEnders tends to be younger than their real life counterparts and more likely to have been born in the UK”.
But she said: “However, it’s still important to ask whether the BBC can do more in its popular output to provide an authentic portrayal of life in modern Britain.”
Latest census figures for Waltham Forest, the London borough that is home to Walthamstow, show that only 38 per cent of residents are white British or Irish. Something tells us it will be a long, long time before the soap opera resembles anything like the real East End.
Awards success for BBC 3
BBC3 was the big winner at this week’s Broadcast Digital Awards, picking up five gongs including Channel of the Year. The youth digital channel beat CBBC, Dave, Discovery Channel, E4 and ITV2 to the prize and was also named Best Factual Channel and Best Entertainment Channel.
Meanwhile, its zombie drama series In The Flesh picked up Best Scripted Programme and The Call Centre was named Best Popular Factual Programme.
The success comes as the BBC Trust weighs up whether to rubber-stamp BBC plans to take the channel online next year.
Judges praised the breadth of its output across comedy, drama, factual and entertainment and its commitment to international current affairs.
Broadcast editor Chris Curtis said: “BBC3’s treble win at the Broadcast Digital Awards is a clear sign that the TV industry believes it is in rude health. Its challenge is to maintain that level of excellence as an online channel next year.”
Must watch TV
Staying with BBC Three, they broadcast an excellent, disturbing, harrowing programme last week that set social media aflutter. Based on a true story, Murdered by My Boyfriend highlighted the issue of domestic violence. I wonder if they will still be producing such excellent programmes when they make the move to on-line only? If you missed it, it is still available to watch on the i-player for another few days.
That’s all for this week, but if you just can’t hang on for another seven days to get your next fix of TV industry news, check LinkedIn our Facebook page for daily updates.