The Realscreen Summit brought to its audience a discussion on ‘Diversity in Factual,’ in which panelists from A&E Television Networks, TLC, NAMIC, BBC and Telemundo spoke about growing diverse representation both on screen and behind the camera.
According to Alfredo Richard, SVP Communications and Talent Development for Telemundo Communications Group, the topic is something thought about every day at Telmundo, and is something that all other U.S. content providers need to pay attention to. ‘There are profound changes happening in this country that will never go back,’ he said, referring to the election of President Barack Obama and members of minorities increasingly taking positions of power, in some instances for the first time ever.
The panel took on the topic of what diversity actually means at a time when the ‘majority’ is getting smaller. According to Sean Cohan, SVP International of A&E Television Networks, the definition of ‘diversity’ has become even broader, going beyond just skin color. He says that networks must think about diversity in terms of gender, age, nationality and race for their international businesses.
‘Diversity colors everything we do. It’s a key part – and yet is unspoken – of the calculus of shows we decide to air,’ he said.
He also added that it has been important at AETN to speak to diverse audiences with the right images and messages, presenting role models and three-dimensional characters.
It’s also important that diversity transcends beyond who is in front of the camera to who is behind the camera. ‘For the industry and for us, that’s been a real challenge,’ says Cohan.
Ian Critchley, controller of the Production Talent Network for BBC, related the story of BBC2′s Muslim Driving School which received 60 complaints about featuring only Muslims. To Critchley, it’s about telling different stories about people and avoiding sameness.
TLC’s VP production and development, East Coast, Howard Lee, stated that there is a dialog for diverse talent on-air, behind the camera and on staff at the channel.
‘With Say Yes to the Dress, we take that extra step to say, ‘Why do we only have white couples here?” says Lee. ‘It’s a challenge, we’re not perfect. We’ve made some amazing strides.’
Indeed, diversity was an issue that popped up in numerous sessions throughout the Summit, including the closing Power Producers’ Roundtable on Day 3. Look for more discussion on the topic in the upcoming March/April issue of realscreen.