The Film and TV Charity's latest report discloses what is not working in the UK's creative diversity agenda – Cineuropa

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by Davide Abbatescianni
23/09/2021 – The study highlights the existence of a “lost generation” of talents who cannot benefit from the current diversity initiatives, as these mostly focus on nurturing young talent
The UK’s Film and TV Charity has published an insightful study on the local industry’s diversity agenda, revealing many unexpected failings which are affecting a system that is known worldwide for its commitments to guarantee equal opportunities. The research, compiled by Dr Clive Nwonka and Professor Sarita Malik, is entitled “Racial Diversity Initiatives in UK Film & TV.”
The body has commissioned this report with the purpose of mapping “current and previous initiatives that have sought to improve off-screen diversity with a specific focus on racial and ethnic diversity,” with a particular interest in gaining “a clear overview of what is currently on offer to Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers in the UK film and TV industry.” 
The study contains five key findings. The first highlights issues with the evaluation and accountability of diversity outcomes and reporting within the sector. In detail, the research shows that there has been reluctance amongst institutions, organisations and bodies responsible for diversity funding, training and support to be open and transparent about the success and impact of their diversity plans. As a result, there is an absence of reliable data and monitoring of specific diversity initiatives and programmes, which makes it difficult to respond to the gaps and problems that may have emerged in the policy evaluation. Besides, this has produced a serious “knowledge deficit” that has contributed to the stagnation of diversity efforts.
The second key finding revolves around the language of diversity. “Whilst there is evidence for a recent shift towards describing the conditions for ethnic minorities in the UK film and TV industry in terms of ‘structural racism’, policies between 2000-2020 show little evidence of the language of anti-racism and structural inequality,” the study claims.
The next indicator shows that there is “an over-emphasis on quantitative data over qualitative data,” and “tremendous scope to increase the knowledge-base with qualitative-led research that examines how racism affects individuals personally and professionally.”
The fourth finding states that the film and TV sectors “share a concern with diversity and inclusion, but neither has invested in addressing the structural dimensions of exclusion and inequality that remain the underpinning factor in film and TV diversity.” Diversity policy between 2000-2020, the study argues, “was unwilling to interrogate and unsettle the racially discriminatory industrial conditions that impacted the recruitment, retention, Racial Diversity Initiatives in Film & TV attrition and progression of Black, Asian and minority ethnic talent” and describes it as “a major failing.”
The last finding warns that most of the diversity initiatives and schemes tend to focus on young, emerging talent, promising to prepare a “fresh generation of writers, producers, directors and crew to populate an expanded and more diverse production workforce.” While the efforts towards this direction are certainly commendable, the report mentions the existence of a “lost generation,” who are generally older than those traditionally supported by such initiatives.
The final chapter of this document contains a list of recommendations. Among these, the two scholars advise that the Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) should take “a more dynamic role in the racial equality agenda in the screen industry, for example by ensuring that film organisations in receipt of public resources are fully transparent with data collected across their schemes and programmes in relation to range of protected characteristics specified in the 2010 Equalities Act.” Moreover, the industry should be keen to develop “much more expansive data sets which capture the nuances and variables across identities and production modes,” in order “to enable more informed policy decisions in the future.” In particular, this includes capturing data on freelance labour, regional variation, and workers’ organisational/production positions and levels of seniority. The authors also praised the launch of The Early-Stage Access and Diversity Accelerator Programme (a collaboration between the BFI and the National Film and Television School), defining it as “an example of how the diversity agenda is informing attempts to make screen education more accessible.” In this sense, they encouraged existing and future industry-higher education collaborations “to expand the reach and breadth of these partnerships towards less established and resourced institutions and degree programmes.”
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