Written By: Hannah Gannagé-Stewart 3/9/15
Lord Holmes has urged TV to seize the diversity initiative by scrapping unpaid internships, while hurdles to top creative jobs also emerged as a theme at the Edinburgh International Television Festival last week.
The former Paralympian was in Scotland to launch a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Ofcom, which provides broadcasters and indies with legal guidance on boosting diversity.
“The one thing that could be done by the broadcast industry to lead the way is to stop, once and for all, unpaid internships,” he said, calling on the sector to become a “trailblazer” for other professions.
It echoed growing industry concern around unpaid internships acting as a barrier to people from less privileged backgrounds.
Endemol Shine Group president Tim Hincks highlighted the issue in his Bafta Television Lecture in July, while UKTV boss Darren Childs said in June that internships could force young talent to choose digital industries over television.
Alongside the issue of access, barriers to progression for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) talent also dominated the diversity agenda at Edinburgh.
Sugar Films managing director Pat Younge said BAME producers often become frustrated by the lack of diversity among commissioners. “They reach a position where they feel they have the right to tell different stories, and they still can’t get those stories made. Then they ask themselves the fundamental question: ‘Is this the industry for me?’” he said.
Nine Lives Media creative director Cat Lewis suggested that it was commissioners’ aversion to risk that prevents diverse talent from progressing. “Commissioners restrict who we can employ to make films,” she said. “They always want to see someone who has made exactly the same kind of film before, and that’s where we have to move beyond.”
The EHRC guidelines suggest broadcasters and indies use databases of recommended diverse freelancers as a means of tackling this issue.
In a separate session, Sky drama commissioning editor Cameron Roach argued that blame does not lie only with commissioners. Using scripted content as an example, he argued that more experience needs to be given to emerging writers on long-running series.
During the festival, the BBC, Directors UK and Creative Skillset launched a mentoring scheme, offering 12 directors the opportunity to work across EastEnders, Holby City, Doctors and Casualty.