Channel 4 has issued a new set of commissioning guidelines and set a target of 20% of commissioners from ethnically diverse backgrounds, as it seeks to maintain the momentum of its Back to Black initiative and expand its commitment to diversity.

Ian Katz, chief content officer, Channel 4 said: “Today we are doubling down on our pledge to drive change behind the camera with a new set of off-screen diversity targets for all our productions, and a commitment to do all we can to help our indie partners broaden their talent networks and open up our industry to all.”

The channel has also added Unapologetic and Crazy Rich… to its list of commissions which have come about as a direct result of its award-winning The Black to Front Project.

Channel 4 has worked closely with the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity in drafting the new commissioning guidelines. The core principles of the guidelines include a requirement for ethnically diverse senior leadership on all Channel 4 production teams, as well as detailed targets for regional representation and production spend for ethnically diverse off screen talent, to help ensure real impact across the spectrum of roles in production teams.

Channel 4 is already committed to ensuring that 20% of its commissioning department is ethnically diverse. That commitment has been further strengthened to state that at least 20% of Channel 4’s editorial decision-makers – commissioning editors and commissioning executives – as well as the most senior team members, are from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

The ground-breaking Back to Black day last September saw Channel 4’s entire programming schedule fronted by Black talent and contributors across all genres and advertisements, with the aim of amplifying Black voices in TV to reflect the diverse and vibrant culture of the UK.

Yinka Bokinni and Zeze Millz will front a further six episodes of late night topical talk show Unapologetic, produced by SBTV and Cardiff Productions. It was previously recommissioned following its successful outing during The Black To Front Project.

In Crazy Rich… (w/t), produced by Rumpus Media, Eddie Kadi will act as a tour guide to show a famous comedian mate a side of Ghana that is seldom seen, and it’s a world of wealth, extravagance and exclusivity.

The broadcaster announced last month that The Big Breakfast, produced by Lifted Entertainment, part of ITV Studios, will get a Summer run, reviving the partnership of hosts AJ Odudu and Mo Gilligan which was first seen as part The Black to Front Project special episode.

In addition, The Defenders (w/t ), from Spring Films, and Billionaires’ Paradise, from Spun Gold, were also commissioned as part of The Black To Front Project.

Other on screen talent that took part in  The Black to Front Project and who now have new Channel 4 commissions include Scarlette and Stuart Douglas (Worst House On The Street,  George Clarke’s Flipping Fast) and Jean Johansson (Dream Life for Same Price pilot, Keys to a Fortune). Tayo Ogutonade continues to present The Great House Giveaway.

Other shows and projects with Judi Love, AJ Odudu, Zeze Millz, Yinka Bokinni and Munya Chawawa are soon to be announced.

Ian Katz added: “The Black to Front Project was always about trying to create sustained change in the industry rather than just one day of striking content. We’ve already recommissioned several shows pitched as part of the project, made ambitious commitments to increased spend with ethnic minority-led companies and made genre by genre commitments to commissioning ethnic minority-fronted programming. The channel will be announcing further plans for more production sector support in coming weeks.“

The manifesto and guidelines follow the channel’s recent pledges around commissioning and funding, to champion greater ethnic diversity both on and off screen.

Channel 4 was the first broadcaster to ring-fence spend for ethnically diverse-led indies, pledging to triple content spend to £22 million by the end of 2023. The Channel has listened to industry feedback and will work with producers to ensure these targets are closely monitored to make sure they stay on track.

In March this year the broadcaster launched a multi-million-pound Diverse Indies Commissioning Fund with Motion Content Group. Blue Therapy 2 (w/t), from  Project Gorilla/Luti Media, announced this month, is one of the first projects to come from this.

As a way of baking in commitment, Channel 4 has mandated every one of its genre teams to have at least one new show with ethnically diverse talent and/or stories at its heart every year, and every commissioning editor must also have at least one ethnically diverse-led indie on their development slates.

Grassroots support is another important route for Channel 4 to help create change, and the broadcaster is working with We Are Parable to support and mentor sixty up and coming Black filmmakers drawn from across the country.

More granular support for indies to help increase diversity will be announced by the broadcaster in coming weeks.

Marcus Ryder, head of External Consultancies at the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity and visiting professor at Birmingham City University, said, “We are encouraged by the fact that Channel 4’s Black to Front project has proved to be bigger than just one day as the broadcaster has clearly taken the lessons that it learnt from the process and are implementing policies that should make it a more diverse and inclusive broadcaster, and hopefully improve diversity throughout the industry.”

Televisual’s Summer issue, out soon, features a look at inclusion and diversity in the TV sector and initiatives from broadcasters and producers.


Pippa Considine

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