Channel 4 Reveals Next Steps to Increase Black Representation in U.K. Industry

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U.K. public service broadcaster Channel 4 has revealed several further steps to increase Black representation in the U.K. industry following its “Black to Front” day of programming on Sept. 10.

The measures include a dedicated fund for commissions from ethnically diverse-led independent production companies, tripling current spend to £22 million ($29.5 million) by 2023. Starting in 2022, each genre will also commission at least one new show with ethnically diverse talent and/or ethnically diverse stories at its heart every year. In addition, from January 2022, every Channel 4 commissioning editor will have at least one ethnically diverse-led indie on their development slate.

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Further, supported and funded by 4Skills, Channel 4 will partner with We Are Parable to deliver “Momentum,” a mentorship and training program for Black talent that will run across six U.K. cities in 2022.

“Black to Front” was an industry-first event, where the entire Channel 4 schedule for Sept. 10 — including commercial breaks — featured Black on- and off-screen talent. Following recommendations from the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, Channel 4 set the target to achieve 100% Black representation behind the camera for all new commissions from the project. However, of the 14 companies producing the day’s 13 shows, just four Black-owned production companies took part, and only on new titles.

An average 65% of editorial roles were Black staff, data for the new commissions on the day released by Channel 4 reveals. Craft and technical roles were, on average, filled by 45% Black staff.

The day attracted a 16.2% share of Black viewers, Channel 4’s highest since the 2012 Olympics. The figure quadrupled Channel 4’s average daily share of Black viewers for the previous 12 months, as the network attracted more than 300,000 Black people.

One of the day’s programs, late-night topical discussion show “Unapologetic,” recently earned a six-part recommission from Channel 4. Further new commissions are expected.

Ian Katz, chief content officer for Channel 4, said: “The idea of our ‘Black to Front Project’ was to deliver a step-change in diverse representation both on Channel 4 and in the wider industry. We’ve already seen its powerful impact on screen and now we are building on what we’ve learned through the project, with a wide-ranging and ambitious set of commitments to ensure that the project creates a real legacy of meaningful change,”

“I’m delighted that after driving the move to out-of-London production with ambitious targets for regional spend, Channel 4 will be the first broadcaster committing to ring fence and increase spend with ethnically diverse-led companies, which is key to ensuring that television doesn’t just look more diverse on screen but actually sees a real shift of power to ethnically-diverse creatives,” Katz added.

“We know that the key to shifting the dial on diverse representation is to ensure that people get jobs, credits and real creative power, and that’s what these commitments are designed to deliver,” said Katz.

Channel 4 will continue to work with the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity and their research will inform a review of the channel’s commissioning diversity guidelines to publish early 2022.

Marcus Ryder, visiting professor at the Lenny Henry Centre, said: “Like Channel 4 we also believe for any diversity, inclusion and equality policies to have any long-term meaningful impact, they must go beyond ‘one day’ which is why it is essential that follow up work must be done. We are encouraged that Channel 4 is already embarking on this and we are looking forward to working with the broadcaster on this important work. Working with industry stakeholders we hope the day, and follow up work, will provide the catalyst for meaningful change in the U.K. media industry.”

To ensure the progression of Black talent within the industry, Channel 4 has established 10 progression placements within independent production companies, providing funding for training and support.

The “Black to Front Project” was conceived by commissioning editors Vivienne Molokwu and Shaminder Nahal and led by Kelly Webb-Lamb, who has now left the broadcaster, along with Babita Bahal and director of commissioning operations Emma Hardy. Katz oversees implementation.

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