We recently attended the RTS awards with one our valued VIP members, documentary film-maker John Deol…

When TV Collective founder Simone Pennant asked if I’d like attendShot of room this year’s Royal Television Society Awards as her guest, I jumped at the chance. Although I’ve been to a regional RTS awards show, the national awards are (obviously) much more prestigious. I also had a vested interest in this year’s show, as one of
the series I worked on last year, Channel 4’s ‘First Dates’, was nominated for in the Popular, Factual and Features category, up against ‘DIY SOS’ and ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’.

Shot of room 2

Events like the RTS Awards are great for catching up with friends and colleagues in the industry, and offer a rare opportunity for producer/directors like myself to bend the ears of commissioners and channel heads. Thank you Ralph Lee for your patience with me on this occasion.

The event started with a leisurely dinner, which meant the actual awards ceremony had a slightly rushed feel. It was getting late by the time the first award was announced, and this being a school night, speeches were only granted to a small number of award winners to save time.

The biggest shock of the night for me wasn’t DIY SOS beating First Dates (we wuz robbed!), but the sheer lack of diversity represented onstage. Although presenter Richard Madeley and RTS President Peter Bazelgette spoke in praise of recent diversity initiatives, alarmingly a total of just two BAME people graced the stage across the entire evening.

The first was the wonderfully talented comic actress Michaela Coel who picked up two awards for ‘Breakthrough

Michaela Coel

                 Actress – Michaela Coel

Lenny Henry

                Lenny Henry, RTS Fellow

Performance of the Year’ and ‘Best Comedy Performance’ for E4’s comedy series ‘Chewing Gum’, and industry veteran Lenny Henry who was made an RTS Fellow after winning the ‘Judges Award’ in recognition of his work campaigning for increasing minority representation in the television industry. True, Reggie Yates picked up ‘Best Presenter’ and couldn’t attend due to filming commitments, but it’s surely obvious to all present that despite the tireless work of campaigners like Lenny, and the TV Collective, action is urgently from within the TV industry to ensure we avoid mere lip service on this issue. While it’s clear some progress is being made on-screen, off screen huge strides are needed to boost diversity.

It was an enjoyable evening nonetheless. Ant and Dec picked up yet another award, much admired Channel 4 ‘Catastrophe’ won two, and ‘The Romanians Are Coming’ deservedly won Best Documentary series.

Lenny Henry said in his acceptance speech: “I’m truly hopeful that this award is a pan-industry acknowledgement that diversity must be at the heart of our industry now and most importantly in the future.” Many us of are hoping he’s right, and more importantly that industry big-wigs are listening.

John Deol – Film-maker with 20 years experience in the TV industry. Originally from the West Midlands with an Indian Sikh heritage. Winner of the RTS ‘Best Single Documentary’ 2011. Recent credits include ‘How to Get a Council House’, ’24 Hours in A&E’ and the BAFTA nominated ‘First Dates‘ for Channel 4, as well as a number of films for BBC1 & BBC3. @johndeol