DISABILITY AND DIVERSITY AT THE BBC AND NETFLIX
I’ve just read an online article about a new and exciting deal which was prompted by a lecture given by writer Jack Thorne at the Edinburgh TV Festival in which he said the television industry, saying it has “utterly and totally” failed disabled people.
“Gender, race, sexuality, all rightly get discussed at length. Disability gets relegated out,” Thorne said at the lecture. “Producers have ignored disabled writers. Commissioners haven’t taken the opportunity to tell disabled stories. There are very few disabled people in front of the camera, and even fewer behind it.”
The response from both Netflix and the BBC was that “Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent creators are some of the least well represented groups on television in the U.K. Put simply, we want to change that fact,” said Anne Mensah, Netflix VP, series, U.K. “
“Jack’s powerful, memorable MacTaggart has shone a revealing light onto the extent of the challenges faced by disabled creatives,” added Piers Wenger, the BBC’s director of drama.
You can read more of the article here https://variety.com/2021/streaming/news/netflix-bbc-disabled-creatives-1235048883/ and watch a video of Jack Thorne here
My issue I guess is that whilst the BBC have this scheme in place already whereby, they’ve already beginning to inject £100m (in Australian dollars that’s $180,920,500.00) of its TV budget over a three-year period to produce “diverse and inclusive content”.
Why do they need this deal?
What’s the difference between Netflix going solo and the BBC continuing to run their 3-year scheme?
Did it really take Jack Thorne’s speech to shame them into making this deal?
It’s the fact that they’ve attached a price to diversity.
Now why is that an issue I hear you asking?
Surely, you an Autistic gay man can see the value in better representation of gay Autistic people on screen.
Why, you even wrote a passionate blog about it last week. https://autisticnick.com/2020/07/06/a-new-tv-show-about-autism-is-coming-but-just-how-involved-in-the-process-are-we/
I don’t have an issue with the overall scheme.
But for me what cheapens this is that they attached a price to it.
Which signals to me that the only way for them to be diverse in the world of TV is to have a price of £100m as the main feature.
Why, if you looked at any of the news stories reporting on this, they all lead with the headline “BBC commits £100m to increasing diversity on TV”.
Which takes the attention and focus away from the scheme as anyone reading it will only see the amount of money being attached to it and won’t see the bigger picture.
But why does there have to be a price of £100m for a TV network to be diverse and have a collaborative, diverse tv output?
Why aren’t they doing this in the first instance?
Why is it that it takes a scheme like this for writers, producers, directors & other creative talent coming from a diversity background before anyone will even consider taking notice of voices like mine?
The other insulting part of the criteria process (if it wasn’t insulting enough in the first place) is that according to the BBC article that I read those within the commissioning departments of the BBC in comedy or drama, etc will have to view the work pitched to them from those coming from say an Autistic background and they will have to measure the pitch to see if it passes two out of three tests!
A quote from the article states
There will also be three “tests” for diversity in the BBC’s TV output, with programmes needing to meet two of them to qualify – diverse stories and portrayal on-screen, diverse production teams and talent and diverse-led production companies.
Tests for diversity? Are you fucking kidding me?
How dare they measure my diversity.
Non-disabled people, or non-gay people aren’t going to be measured here, are they? Because it’s an insult.
Yes, it’s a FUCKING INSULT.
June Sarpong is the BBC’s director of diversity and after this schemes announcement she made the following statement.
“I am pledging to ensure 50% of on-air roles will go to women by 2020, with targets of 15% for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups [BAME], 8% for disabled people and 8% for LGBT staff”.
The last section of her quote really stuck in my throat.
I am only worth a total of 16% fucking percent in relation to this scheme?
I find it demoralising and by attaching a percent to my disability it makes me feel that my self-worth isn’t highly regarded.
I am not a number and as such I shouldn’t be defined by one.
My voice and my disability have a value and it’s certainly worth more than a mere 8%.
What is there current disability percent rate when it comes to commissioning programs?
And why is 8% the highest that they are looking to get to?
I’m not shocked here, I know I should be but here in Australia it’s not a lot better with 96% of non-disabled characters being played by non-disabled actors, with 18% of the Australian population is Autistic.
I’m just left wondering why someone like me a gay Autistic man has to jump through hoops and have my work measured against a three-part test before it’s even considered worthy to be broadcast?
I believe that there is value to me telling my story, having my voice heard on screen, seeing better representation of people with Autism, being a leading character and not relegated to being a token person with a disability just for the sake of the network filling a disability quota.
I’m sick and tired of being underrepresented in both TV and film roles and that those roles are going to non-disabled actors.
Whilst this is welcomed, I feel that they should have led with the headline BBC announce new diversity scheme and not BBC injects £100m into being more diverse.
What I want to see is changes and not excuses.
Carry On The Conversation
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.