The BBC has issued a new set of commitments to improve the representation of disabled people on screen and to improve access to BBC productions for disabled people, which include looking to include representation in all scripted programming and to have at least one contributor in all unscripted titles.
BBC iPlayer is also launching a dedicated collection called Count Us In that celebrates disabled programming and talent, which will be live this weekend ahead of the United Nations International Day of Disabled Persons.
The BBC is committed to improving the representation of deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people on screen, with a focus on the quality and quantity of representation. We believe the portrayal of disabled people must be authentic, inclusive and reach across all our programmes and recognise that disability can be apparent or non-apparent.
We know there are barriers to access within the broadcasting industry for those working off screen. We commit to improving opportunities and accessibility across our productions so that no one is ever excluded.
The new commitments mean that within scripted programmes we will look to include authentic and meaningful representation of disability in all new commissions. We will endeavour to cast those with lived experience of disability for disabled roles – as well as seeking disabled actors for roles not specifically written to be disabled.
And within unscripted programmes portrayal of disability will include landmark and incidental portrayal. We will endeavour to include at least one contributor, presenter or performer with a disability per series and in one-off programmes.
The commitments formalise and build on much of the work already happening within the BBC and follows the launch of The TV Access Project (TAP), created by the BBC, Channel 4, Britbox International, Disney+ UK, ITV, Paramount, Prime Video, Sky and UKTV, in August this year. Each BBC production will work to the 5 As, launched by the TV Access Project, to support the highest accessibility standards. Commissioners and independent producers will work closely to deliver the new commitments.
Joanna Abeyie, BBC head of Creative Diversity, says: “The BBC is committed to building an accessible and welcoming culture for disabled talent, both on and off screen, as part of our plans to ensure we truly reflect disabled audiences. There is more to do across the whole industry and I’m excited to see how these new access commitments remove barriers and create better workplaces that make the TV industry more accessible to all who want to be a part of it.”
Charlotte Moore, BBC chief content officer, says: “It is vital that we continue to improve access to meaningfully increase the representation of disabled people on and off screen across the whole industry. These new BBC access commitments will drive authentic and inclusive portrayal even further across our content and ensure that the very best disabled talent feel heard and valued.”
The BBC is also launching a new scheme – Access First Titles – that will see programmes work with the BBC’s Creative Diversity team and acccess co-ordinators to bring disabled talent onto their production teams. This aims to widen opportunities, provide a pathway for talented individuals to grow and progress and share learning across the organisation.
The first titles will be Silent Witness, made by BBC Studios, and The Apprentice, a co-production from Naked (a Fremantle label) and MGM UK. Both programmes will go into production early next year.
The new commitments will complement the BBC Elevate scheme, which is progressing the careers of mid-level disabled talent within production companies, with tailored training, coaching and mentoring.
As part of the TV Access Project, the BBC is also working with the industry to deliver access guidelines for studios and facilities.
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