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Channel 4 launches initiative to mentor disabled talent working in TV production

Commercially funded UK pubcaster Channel 4 has launched an initiative to help mentor off-screen disabled talent.

Ally Castle

Rise, a mentoring initiative for mid- and senior-level disabled talent working in TV production, has been devised in partnership with TripleC/DANC (Disabled Artists Networking Community), who support and advance deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people in the arts and media.

The broadcaster is looking for six deaf, disabled and/or neurodivergent freelancers working in TV production to become mentees. Only then will mentors be selected according to the person they are supporting, to make sure they are a good match and have the skills to really make a difference.

C4 has said it is committed to engaging and enabling disabled talent and pointed to its track record in disability representation, as the UK home of the Paralympics, as well as shows such as The Last Leg and Trip Hazard.

Applications to the scheme are open until February 14 and successful candidates will be mentored between April and December 2022. Full details of the scheme including entry criteria are here.

Last year C4 launched a disability strategy and has devised shareable best practice guidelines for indies and producers on hiring, including and progressing disabled production talent. It has also launched 4Access, which is focused on boosting the inclusion of disabled off-screen talent in selected key C4 productions.

Ally Castle, C4’s creative diversity and disability lead, said: “We know that as an industry we have a serious lack of disabled people in senior decision-making roles. Rise will be a fantastic opportunity for disabled talent who are already somewhat established to be supported by some of the best creatives in broadcasting and beyond to progress to the next stage in their career.

“Too often our culture and practices in TV hold back fantastic disabled off-screen talent. Due to barriers like lack of support and adjustments, or unhelpful attitudes and assumptions they can simply get ‘stuck.’

Shaminder Nahal

“Rise participants will get encouragement and advice tailored to their particular needs, with the express aim of elevating them in their careers and ultimately getting more disabled talent into leadership positions.”

Cherylee Houston, TripleC/DANC co-creative director, said the initiative will make “a real change” to the presence of disabled talent across the board in the industry.

“We need deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people in key decision-making roles. Only this will ensure a sustainable change. Channel 4 has recognised this need and we expect that the off-screen production talent on this initiative will become some of the key decision-makers of the future,” said Houston.

In other news, C4 has commissioned a feature documentary about women’s relationship with their breasts.

Boobs, which is produced by Wall to Wall, has been written and directed by Elizabeth Sankey (Romantic Comedy) and executive produced by Lana Salah.

The one-off doc will air on February 7 and features interviews with figures such as former Love Island contestant Megan Barton-Hanson, artist Sophie Tea and podcaster Jackie Adedeji.

Shaminder Nahal, head of specialist factual at C4, said: “I love the way this film intertwines women’s thoughts and feelings about their breasts with film and TV clips in such a funny, moving and clever way. I think it will make everyone who watches think a little differently about these endlessly fascinating body parts.”

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