Channel 4 has signed industry vet Dawn Airey, who has held senior roles with ITV, Channel 5 and Sky, to its board, while issuing industry-first guidelines to producers working with disabled talent, presenters and contributors.
Airey is one of four Non-Executive directors appointed to the board today who will serve a term of at least three years, alongside former Today program editor Sarah Sands, former advertising body Thinkbox CEO Tess Alps and Reuters’ ex-Managing Director Global David Kogan.
Airey is a high-profile appointment who was ViacomCBS-owned Channel 5’s Director Of Programmes and held two stints as Chair/CEO. She is also a former Director of Global Content for ITV and Managing Director of Channels and Services for Sky.
All appointments were approved by new UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who is currently presiding over whether to privatize Channel 4, a move that would have enormous ramifications for the channel. If rubberstamped, Airey’s former employers ViacomCBS, ITV and [Sky owner] Comcast have all been talked up as potential buyers.
The network is also seeking a new chair, with incumbent Charles Gurassa – a vocal privatization critic – set to step down in January. Against the advice of both Channel 4 and Ofcom, the UK government controversially vetoed the reappointment of two female directors to its board over the summer.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 has issued guidelines to producers working with disabled talent, presenters and contributors, in what the network believes is an industry first.
Fresh off the back of International Day of Persons With Disabilities and the formal launch of His Dark Materials writer Jack Thorne’s Underlying Health Condition lobbying group, the UK broadcaster is also making three booklets available to help producers be more inclusive when hiring deaf, disabled and neurodivergent talent off-screen.
C4 said it believes the on-screen talent guidelines are the first of their kind to be published by a UK broadcaster.
Under the headings “ask”, “assess” and “adjust,” they recommend three key steps to ensure that indies allow disabled talent to perform at their best and are accompanied by three practical template documents.
C4 CEO Alex Mahon said: “Disability has been left behind, it isn’t talked about enough and it has now become a real problem in our industry. Our job at Channel 4 is to help change it. People have rights to go and get jobs, this is not a favor, it’s not charity, it’s about thinking about where there are skills in our industry which we’re not accessing.”
Underlying Health Condition called the move “encouraging.”
The group was first revealed during Thorne’s blistering MacTaggart address in August and unveiled a report and sset of recommendations Friday that includes the creation of two funds: one to upgrade the UK’s ailing studio and facilities to make them more disability-friendly and the other to help disabled freelancers.
Speaking exclusively to Deadline before the report’s publication, Thorne said the UK TV and film industries can be “world leaders” on disability if “radical thinking” is implemented.
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