BBC Commits To Spending $124M On Diverse Shows Over The Next Three Years

Small Axe
Steve McQueen's Small Axe. BBC

The BBC has committed to spending £100M ($124M) on “diverse and inclusive content,” in what it is describing as the biggest financial investment in diverse programming in the UK television industry.

The £100M fund will be carved out of the BBC’s existing content budget and will be spread out over three years, starting in 2021. It includes a commitment that from April 2021, 20% of a BBC show’s “talent” will come from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

The announcement was made on Windrush Day 2020, which honors Caribbean immigrants who moved to the UK after World War II. It also follows the publication of two letters from BAME creatives demanding change in the UK film and TV industry, one of which was signed by 3,500 people, including Michaela Coel, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Colin Firth. The other, from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic TV Task Force, was signed by 700 individuals.

The BBC said it wants to transform itself “inside and out” and as part of the financial pledge, it is committing to creating content across all genres with two of three priorities: Diverse stories and portrayal on-screen; diverse production teams and talent; diverse-led production companies.

BBC director general Tony Hall said: “The senseless killing of George Floyd — and what it tells us about the stain of systemic racism — has had a profound impact on all of us. It’s made us question ourselves about what more we can do to help tackle racism — and drive inclusion within our organization and in society as a whole. This is our response – it’s going to drive change in what we make and who makes it.”

BBC director of content Charlotte Moore added: “When I met Steve McQueen last year during the making of Small Axe, he challenged me and the BBC to set meaningful targets and take proper action. He was right. Today’s announcement represents a truly transformational commitment to both on and off screen representation.”

The initiative has been spearheaded by June Sarpong, the BBC’s director of creative diversity, who said it is the “first of a series of bold steps that will help make the BBC an instrument of real change.” She added: “As a black woman, I feel and share in the pain that so many are feeling worldwide. It makes it all the more important that we show up now not just with words but with meaningful action.”

The BBC has promised to report on progress as part of its annual report, and the fund will be supplemented by other commitments. These include regular meet and greets with under-represented minority groups across the country, and the development of a digital database for diverse talent. The BBC also plans to publish a diversity commissioning code of practice report later this summer.

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