I am pleased to see that diversity is on the agenda after actor Lenny Henry proposed new measures to increase the representation of BAME groups in the TV industry in his speech at the BAFTA awards. But why do we need to talk about these issues again?
Well, according to new shocking statistics from the latest census conducted by Creative Skillset, for every BAME person who has left the TV industry between 2006 and 2012, two white people have replaced them. Odds are, they are white middle class and not working class (who are also underrepresented). So it's not just that we are not progressing in our fight for a more equal representation, but it seems that the slow boat to diversity has started to reverse.
What should be done?
Having a figurehead such as Lenny Henry who is fighting for the equal representation cause along with other groups such as The TV Collective is a good start. I feel that his new proposal for increasing industry diversity through quotas is the right way to go rather than what some people are calling for, which is a separation between mainstream and BAME. This is a very important point.
I have been working in broadcasting for over 25 years, and I have always pitched different content which would more accurately reflect the diverse tastes of our communities. And even when TV executives kept telling me to take my "niche" show to the Internet or a "niche" channel, I stuck to my guns saying that "niche" is part of mainstream society.
The show we produce through our charity MAMA Youth Project, works on a simple belief: BAME individuals shop in the same supermarket, get the same public transport and live in the same community as everyone - so their interests should be addressed in the same manner as everyone else's.
We create a show produced by BAME and white working class young people, aimed at young adults between the age of 16 to 35 and we were able to go mainstream. BSkyB took this project on board and ran the show "What's Up" on their free to air channel Pick TV. After 5 seasons, the show has proved that "niche" is part of mainstream as the viewing figures reached a level that cannot be ignored. As a result, Sky Entertainment has now commissioned the show for Sky 1.
I think that if we can do it, so can others. But what needs to happen is to encourage more BAME individuals to go behind the camera and in the production rooms. When this happens, their creativity and ideas will break through onto our screens as well.
In order for change to happen, we need to make sure that not only executives are ready to bring about change, but a more open minded hiring mentality cuts through to the shop floor of line managers, producers, production managers who take the day to day decisions. Too many times they don't know how to put talent before colour. Too many times they end up segregating simply because they don't understand another culture and therefore do not understand that a black person can show their passion in a different way.
Making sure that TV companies big and small encourage both executives and shop floor managers to be more open minded will ensure that more minorities are hired and have their contracts renewed. This will not only increase diversity but will also bring better programmes that are more representative onto our screens.