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C21’s Big Picture is an ongoing initiative to support positive change in and through the content business across four key areas of focus: inclusivity & diversity, sustainability & environment, business practice & operations, and content & storytelling.

‘It’s my job to keep banging on until things change’

In the first of a series of articles published in C21’s Big Picture strand, ITV’s head of diversity and inclusion, Ade Rawcliffe, provides insight into how the broadcaster uses its unique position to make a positive difference to its audiences, communities and the wider world.

What does your role involve?
I lead all the diversity, equity and inclusion work across ITV, covering our content, those making our content and our workforce. It is a global role and I have a broader strategic overview of ITV as a member of the management board.

Do you have a specific stated mission with regards to the four verticals within The Big Picture Network: inclusivity & diversity, sustainability & environment, business practice & operations and content & storytelling?
At ITV, we strive to create and showcase content by, with and for everyone, connecting and reflecting modern audiences. As the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster, we recognise the power and reach of our programming and want to ensure that the widest range of people can tell their stories.

We want to create programmes with the biggest impact on the audience and the smallest impact on the planet. Making it part of everyone’s job, climate action is integrated into ITV’s business, supported by solid governance. We aim for all shows produced and commissioned in the UK to complete the BAFTA albert certification for sustainable production.

ITV reaches millions of people every day with shows they love to watch and voices they pay real attention to. This reach comes not only with a responsibility but also an opportunity to effect long-term positive change. We take this responsibility seriously and have set ourselves ambitious social-purpose goals, along with a commitment to act to the highest ethical standards that go beyond merely complying with relevant laws. Our goals and standards not only apply to how we operate within ITV, but also to our entire sphere of influence.

Social purpose is central to ITV’s mission to reflect and shape culture with brilliant content and creativity.

What’s the main focus for you?
We recently announced our Diversity Commissioning Fund. We’ve reserved £80m (US$100m) of our commissioning budget over three years to drive change in racial and disability equity in terms of whose stories get told and who is given opportunities in TV production. A portion of the fund – at least £20m – is reserved for production companies led by people of colour or d/Deaf, disabled or neurodiverse people. Additionally, we’ve created a new £500,000 development fund to develop ideas that will qualify for the Diversity Commissioning Fund. And we’ve set a new target to increase the number of colleagues from working-class backgrounds to 33% by 2025 – the first time that ITV has set a socio-economic background target.

What are the biggest challenges?
We’re trying to transform systems of structural inequity that have been in place for a long time. There are some things we can change quickly, like increasing on-screen representation – for example, 26% of the lead roles in our biggest shows have been played by people of colour over the last year, increasing from 17% in 2019/20. But we have to acknowledge that real and fundamental change requires long-term commitment. This is why we set up our Cultural Advisory Council, a group of independent external advisers from a range of different industries and specialisms who advise, challenge and counsel ITV on our inclusion and diversity activities.

Can you give specific examples of a challenge you have faced?
We were acutely aware of the lack of progress regarding people from underrepresented groups being elevated to senior positions on productions. We created the Step Up 60 programme to address this. We launched it in 2020 and, since then, we have had 123 people ‘step up’ to more senior positions on our shows. But there is still more work to be done. We need to scale up things that work and stop doing things that don’t.

Can you give an example of how you set about trying to influence positive change?
We looked internally to see what we were doing to support our senior leaders who are people of colour. We created Amplify, a senior leadership programme that aims to enhance their leadership skills and to match them with a management board or PLC board sponsor to help them elevate their profiles. Recognising that they, too, are role models for the next generation, we also matched them with a new entrant to ITV, so they could act as a sponsor too.

What are the most common issues that need to be addressed?
Issues around accessibility. At ITV, we’re embedding it into everything we do: production, workforce, audiences, ITVX. As an industry, we must all do more to ensure equitable access.

How could things be different and what kind of change needs to be introduced to achieve this?
We want to create an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive. We need to start asking the right questions, like what should we all be doing to make our industry inclusive.

Jack Thorne

Who has impressed you in terms of how they are working to bring about change?
I’m particularly inspired by screenwriter Jack Thorne [His Dark Materials] and the work he has ignited around accessibility. The TV Access Project has brought together multiple partners to help improve disabled talent across the TV industry, and their drive and determination is incredibly impressive.

Who do you look to for inspiration?
I recently had the opportunity to hear from Reverend Al Sharpton, who has a new documentary coming out about his extraordinary career as a civil rights icon. His tireless campaigning and astute observations about the differences and similarities between the UK and US on Black rights was a real reminder of the work we still have to do in this country. I sometimes think I spend all day banging on about the same things, but it’s my job to keep banging on until things change.

Which organisations or processes have you worked with?
We established a cultural advisory board that is composed of external partners from different sectors and that has really benefited our work in the last couple of years. Having different perspectives from people in other areas of expertise and business has informed and supported our D&I strategy.

What resources do you use?
For me, the best resources have been our external partners – BAFTA, The TV Collective, The British Blacklist, DANC, Creative Access – and other broadcasters and streamers that are on the same journey as ITV. These problems are too big to solve in isolation and real change will only happen if we work together as a sector.

Game-changing drama Ralph & Katie

Which TV companies or shows do things well?
We work with some incredible companies, both big and small, but it has been great to see our own ITV labels embrace our D&I work. Companies such as Tall Story Pictures, 5 Acts Productions and Lifted are really changing the game in how they make content. Patrick Spence’s drama Ralph & Katie has also been a game changer in terms of disability and access.

What books or blogs would you advise people to read?
Matthew Syed has written some great books that look at inclusion in a different way. It’s definitely worth reading his book Rebel Ideas. He also has a great podcast, Sideways, which looks at subjects through a different lens. And David Olusoga and Gary Younge have written some brilliant books and excellent articles on race in, among others, The Guardian.

How would you like to see things change in future?
I’d like to see more people of colour in the most senior positions in our industry. I’d also like accessibility embedded into all our work, whether that be for our workforces, on-screen talent or our viewers.

If three things could be introduced to help, what would they be?
First, I’d like to see more jobs in the industry advertised publicly. Second, I’d like to see people hired for their skills and potential, not for experience that exactly mirrors the roles being recruiting for. We’re missing out on great talent because of this. And third, I’d like to see genuine appreciation of the fact that diversity is a secret superpower and will make you more money and your content better. Real research backs this up.

What would you do differently?
Start with an understanding of what you want to change and don’t deviate from that. There’s a lot of noise and distraction in this line of work. Don’t let your focus be stolen. Sometimes you need to ruffle a few feathers in order to drive change. If people are uncomfortable, that means things are changing.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Fight the right battles for maximum impact. And it’s amazing how much more you can accomplish if you stop worrying about who gets the credit.

What advice would you give to someone working in a similar role to you?
Active allyship is everything; you need partners to achieve real change. As the African proverb says, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Any last thoughts?
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito” – Dalai Lama.

C21’s Big Picture is an ongoing initiative to support positive change in and through the content business across four key areas of focus: inclusivity & diversity, sustainability & environment, business practice & operations and content & storytelling.


Ade Rawcliffe
Ade Rawcliffe is responsible for all diversity- and inclusion-related matters across the ITV Group. Prior to joining ITV, she led Channel 4’s creative diversity team, where she spearheaded the delivery of the broadcaster’s 360° Diversity Charter, oversaw the creation of its Commissioning Diversity Guidelines and developed programmes through its Alpha Fund. She was also part of the team responsible for Channel 4’s coverage of the Rio 2016 Paralympics and London 2012 Paralympics, which broke records for employing disabled presenters and production staff. Rawcliffe is a chair of BAFTA’s Learning, Inclusion and Talent Committee and a board member of Women in Film & Television.