BBC commits £100m of its content spend on diverse productions and talent

The BBC is setting out the first in a new series of bold steps to transform its programming and better represent the public it serves.

In an announcement made recently, the BBC said the following:

The BBC’s Creative Diversity Commitment – the biggest financial investment to on-air inclusion in the industry – will prioritise £100m of our existing commissioning budget over three years (from 2021/22-2023/24) towards diverse and inclusive content. This will be supported by a new mandatory 20% diverse-talent target in all new network commissions from April 2021.

With this commitment, the BBC is throwing open its doors more widely than ever to diverse stories and diverse storytellers. The media industry is not changing fast enough. The BBC has been committed to creative diversity and inclusion for 100 years, but we now want to go further. The measures announced today are designed to accelerate the pace of change in increasing diversity and inclusion both on and off air. And to demonstrate change is being delivered, the BBC will report on progress in its Annual Report.

These steps are all part of the ambitious journey we are on to transform the BBC inside and out and make a real difference to the industry and to society at a critical time. The £100m investment will support our commitment to diversity and inclusion in our TV output across all genres, including children’s, education and current affairs. It will support the BBC’s Diversity Code of Practice, and commits the BBC to create content with at least two of the following three priorities:

  • Diverse stories and portrayal on-screen
  • Diverse production teams and talent
  • Diverse-led production companies

Director-General, Tony Hall, says: “The senseless killing of George Floyd – and what it tells us about the stain of systemic racism – has had a profound impact on all of us. It’s made us question ourselves about what more we can do to help tackle racism – and drive inclusion within our organisation and in society as a whole.

This is our response – it’s going to drive change in what we make and who makes it. It’s a big leap forward – and we’ll have more to announce in the coming weeks.

June Sarpong, Director of Creative Diversity, says: “I came to the BBC as an outsider. Before joining I had an idea of this being an organisation that did not want to change. What I found was something different: an organisation that had ambitious goals for diversity and inclusion but didn’t know how to reach them. This commitment will help to drive real change that will be felt by all audiences. It will also create a strong framework to help diverse storytellers succeed at all levels of the industry.

As Director of Creative Diversity, I’m pleased that we’re announcing this fund as the first of a series of bold steps that will help make the BBC an instrument of real change. As a black woman, I feel and share in the pain that so many are feeling worldwide. It makes it all the more important that we show up now not just with words but with meaningful action.

Charlotte Moore, Director of Content, says: “When I met Steve McQueen last year during the making of Small Axe, he challenged me and the BBC to set meaningful targets and take proper action. He was right. Today’s announcement represents a truly transformational commitment to both on and off-screen representation. Concrete, tangible action is the only way we can bring about real sustainable change

This announcement is not the end of the process. The BBC will be setting out further plans in other production areas in the coming weeks.

The mandatory 20% diverse-talent target will apply to all new network commissions from April 2021. The need for change is urgent and our commissioning specification – which sets out the criteria for content production – will be updated this summer to encourage earlier action.

The Creative Diversity investment will be further aided by the following commitments:

  • We will run regular meet and greets across the country, to enable talent from traditionally under-represented minority groups to engage with BBC staff and external suppliers who shape the organisation’s creative output
  • We are working towards developing a comprehensive diverse digital database for the industry, and an accelerator program for on screen and off screen diverse talent
  • We will work with the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative on the ‘Belonging Blueprint’, a project aimed at establishing new practices to create wider access to entertainment industry jobs for traditionally marginalised individuals
  • We will continue to prioritise investing and developing diverse leaders at the BBC. The newly appointed Senior Leadership Advisors, two per leadership group, act as senior executives and bring fresh perspectives to each leadership board. They will receive development and training over the next year while they are in post
  • The Creative Diversity Unit, led by June Sarpong, Director of Creative Diversity, will publish a new strategy over the summer. The strategy will support the Belonging Blueprint, and the inclusion toolkit, a set of guidance and tools to help the BBC’s creative staff and industry partners ensure diversity and inclusion is at the heart of production
  • Later this year the BBC will also publish a detailed Diversity Commissioning Code of Practice report at the same time as the Annual Report and Accounts

That the BBC has mentioned its 100-year dedication to diversity, yet still has issues with glass ceilings for its Black and other non-white staff in its departments, unfair reprimands (Naga Nunchetty-gate) and a lack of completely Black made stories on across its channels, forgive us our cynicism. However, we stand behind June Sarpong and hope that she will be able to support this massive commitment.


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