The Television Academy Foundation — the charitable arm of the Television Academy — is introducing a US$1 million unscripted internship program backed by reality TV executives aimed at improving diversity in the genre.
The Diversity and Inclusion Unscripted Internship Program is geared towards Los Angeles-area college students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
A total of five students will be selected by Television Academy members and the foundation’s board of directors to participate in the program each year.
Eligible students from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino counties can apply for the 2021 program from April 7 to May 5.
Co-founding donors include Cris Abrego, chairman of the Americas, Banijay, president and CEO, Endemol Shine Holdings; Jim Berger, co-founder and chairman of High Noon Entertainment and strategic advisor, ITV America; Rasha and Stephanie Drachkovitch, co-founders and co-CEOs of 44 Blue Productions; and Jonathan Murray, co-founder of Bunim/Murray Productions.
The program was first envisioned in 2017 with initial donations from Abrego and Murray to create a talent pipeline for reality TV. Berger, Stephanie and Rasha joined Abrego and Murray as founding donors of the program later that year.
“About two years ago, Jon Murray first called me to talk about the lack of diversity in unscripted TV; and after talking with him at great length, we decided to do something about it and hopefully make a lasting difference within our industry,” Abrego, who was recently elected chair of the Television Academy Foundation, said in a statement. “As a Latino kid who grew up just outside of Los Angeles, I know firsthand how important it is to get that first break and to learn directly from those who are developing and producing unscripted series at the top studios in this town.”
“Expanding inclusivity within the industry means we have to support those aspiring students who may not have the means or connections to fulfill their career goals in television,” Murray, vice chair of the Television Academy Foundation, added. “This program will prioritize internship opportunities for local students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds that may ultimately lead to full-time employment. Now that the program has been established, we look forward to expanding the endowment with the support of additional reality television leaders.”
Photo: Founding donors with interns from 2019 pilot program for the Television Academy Foundation’s Diversity and Inclusion Unscripted Internship Program. Courtesy Mark Von Holden/Invision for The Television Academy/AP Images