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Looking Ahead: Update from Amanda Ariss

At last week Bafta’s event Lenny Henry gave TV’s diversity debate a shot in the arm.

While recognising that the broadcasters all have plans and actions in place that will make a difference, Lenny’s central call was for Ofcom to mandate ring-fenced funding for BAME productions. This may divide opinion but there can be no debate about the scale of the challenge if we are to reach the point where the industry reflects and benefits creatively from the diversity of the UK.

The recent Directors UK’s research makes painfully clear the scale of the challenge: just 1.5% of the programmes in their sample had been made by BAME directors. The industry is missing out on talent in a big way. And the pattern of BAME talent being under-represented is repeated for others groups, such as disabled people.

CDN members are determined to speed up the pace of change.  Last week CDN’s Board – which is made up of some of the most senior figures from across our membership – discussed CDN’s strategy for the next three years. There are a lot of things already happening to widen access at entry level so a key part of our future approach will focus on ensuring people from under-represented groups can progress and flourish.

Supporting diverse talent to stay in the industry and get on will involve, amongst other things, changing hiring practices, something Directors UK called for. So we agree with Lenny that progress is not just about training, important though that can be. Concerted effort is needed around changing mainstream practices and organisational cultures rather than on special initiatives and schemes. Who gets hired, and how, is a crucial part of the picture and changing this will involve every organisation in the industry doing some things differently.

To support the changes that are needed the CDN team will be creating a new website of resources, such as e-learning modules, to help organisations achieve good diversity practice. We’ll also continue to make targeted interventions, such as our current senior level Commissioner Development Programme.

Many of the actions needed to increase diversity can only be taken by individual broadcasters and production companies. Their day-to-day decisions affect who gets hired or promoted and what programmes get pitched and commissioned.

CDN’s role is different and complementary. We’re here to inspire and encourage progress. We’re here to promote best practice and offer practical tools for getting it right, especially for smaller organisations with limited capacity. We’re here to provide opportunities to share ideas and learning across the industry. We’re here to push forward fresh thinking as the industry holds itself to account through the new Diamond diversity monitoring initiative.

We’ll be saying more about our new strategy early in the New Year so watch this space.

Amanda Ariss, Executive Director.