The UK TV and film industries are on a big diversity push this year with pay-TV giant Sky the latest to join the fray. The 21st Century Fox-controlled group said today that it is “stretching new targets to improve the representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic people across its entertainment channels.” This follows a plan announced in June by the BBC to increase on-screen representation of the same groups to 15% over a period of three years, as well as doubling the number of senior managers by 2020. In July, the BFI’s Film Fund said it would require movies meet a list of standards that reflect and represent the diversity of the UK before agreeing to invest in projects.
Part of the drive to shake things up on the diversity front is attributable to comedian and actor Lenny Henry who has had roles in such films as The Pirates! Band Of Misfits and Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. Earlier this year, he penned an editorial in The Guardian urging broadcasters to create more slots “where new talent can have the opportunity to shine.” He noted the success of such Britons as 12 Years A Slave helmer Steve McQueen and star Chiwetel Ejiofor, as well as Belle‘s Amma Assante, The Butler‘s David Oyelowo, and Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. He also pointed out that Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Parminder Nagra, David Harewood and Lennie James have had success in U.S. television, but said, “success on the other side of the pond should not be as a result of the lack of opportunity for the same success in Britain.” Figures released in 2013 showed that representation among black, Asian and ethnic minorities across the TV and film industry had fallen from 7.4% in 2009 to 5.4% in 2012.
Sky says its targets are designed to ensure that programs across Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living and Sky Arts better reflect the diversity of its 10.7M TV customers in Britain and Ireland. Sky has increased its investment in original British programming to £600M per year and includes such shows as Chris O’Dowd’s Moone Boy and the Jon Hamm/Daniel Radcliffe series A Young Doctor’s Notebook. By the end of 2015, it says all brand new, non-returning shows on Sky entertainment channels will have people from BAME backgrounds in at least 20% of significant on-screen roles and that all of Sky’s original programs will have someone with a BAME background in at least one senior production role. What’s more, 20% of writers on all shows will be from BAME backgrounds. On the commissioning side, Sky will offer a 12-month work placement on the team as part of the UK’s Creative Diversity Network’s Commissioning Leadership Programme.