Channel 4’s Next Steps in Increasing Black Representation In U.K. Media

Channel 4 of the U.K.’s public broadcaster has revealed further steps to increase Black representation in U.K. industries following its “Black to Front”September 10th, day of programming

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. Each genre will commission at least one show each year with ethnically diverse talent or stories. Every Channel 4 commissioning editor from January 2022 will also have at least one indie with ethnicity on their development slate.

Channel 4 will also partner with We Are Parable, which is supported and funded through 4Skills. “Momentum,”A mentorship and training program for Black talent will be offered in six U.K. locations by 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. Channel 4 established a goal to have 100% Black representation behind the camera for any new project commissions, following recommendations by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity. However, of the 14 companies producing the day’s 13 shows, just four Black-owned production companies took part, and only on new titles.

Data from Channel 4’s new commissions for the day reveals that on average, 65% of editorial jobs were held by Black staff. On average, 45% of technical and craft roles were filled by 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,”Channel 4 recently awarded a six-part commission. More commissions are anticipated.

Ian Katz, Chief Content Officer for Channel 4, stated: “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, 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.”

Channel 4 has established ten progression placements in independent production companies to ensure that Black talent can progress within the industry. This funding will be used for training and support.

The “Black to Front Project”Vivienne Molokwu, Shaminder Nahal, the commissioning editors, conceived it. Kelly Webb Lamb, director of commissioning operations Emma Hardy, also left the broadcaster. Katz oversees implementation.

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