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Channel 4 sets out disability, diversity efforts

UK pubcaster Channel 4 has launched a strategy to boost disability inclusion at the company and set out a number of off-screen commitments for its upcoming Black to Front project.

Ally Castle

As part of the channel’s wider Creative Diversity plan, the ‘engage and enable’ disability strategy will focus on driving structural shifts across the industry to increase disabled representation both on- and off-screen.

It includes commitments to launch the UK TV industry’s first  disabled talent and contributor welfare policy, as well as a dedicated mentoring scheme for disabled talent in partnership with disabled artists’ organisation TripleC DANC.

The strategy is also committed to sponsoring 4Connect networking events allowing indies to meet with disabled production talent, in partnership with groups such as Deaf & Disabled People in TV.

In addition, the strategy will identify spaces and routes for disabled on-screen talent to grow within the Channel 4 portfolio and produce guidelines for indies on hiring, including and progressing disabled talent. It will also develop a disability code of portrayal and provide expert editorial support on key projects to ensure fair and authentic representation.

Channel 4 said it will also work to create more memorable and challenging on-screen moments intended to deliver extensive social impact, and invite and encourage conversation and consultation with disabled viewers, organisations and industry insiders.

“Channel 4 wants to engage and enable the industry to achieve genuine, lasting disability inclusion. To do this, we know we need to be a part of driving and facilitating big-scale change, working with a range of partners with disability expertise and collaborating with stakeholders across our industry and beyond,” said Ally Castle, the pubcaster’s creative diversity and disability lead.

“This strategy is intended to build on our existing work and partnerships in this area, and focus us even more on building confidence and facilitating opportunities among indies and freelancers off-screen, delivering consistent and considered authentic portrayal on screen, and ensuring audience input and impact.”

Elsewhere, Channel 4 has set out a number of off-screen commitments for its Black to Front project following a report from The Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity (LHC) at Birmingham City University.

Black to Front is focused on a day this September when Channel 4’s entire programming schedule will be fronted by black talent and contributors. As part of the project, the pubcaster is working with the LHC, which has published a report listing a number of recommendations.

In response to the report, Channel 4 has committed to ensuring all new commissions for the day aim for 100% black representation behind the camera and to fund at least 10 progression placements offering fully paid jobs with credits and ongoing career development for black talent. It has also promised to work with indies on hiring practices to ensure meaningful employment for black staff on new and existing commissions.

Channel 4 has said it will monitor these commitments by publishing learnings that will inform future policy through a manifesto of change.

Kelly Webb-Lamb, Channel 4’s deputy director of programmes and head of popular factual, said: “We’ve been working with The Sir Lenny Henry Centre to help us ensure Black to Front leaves a lasting legacy. We asked the centre to make far-reaching recommendations which challenge us as we tackle this urgent and important issue for the industry.

“We welcome the centre’s input, which hopefully will allow Black To Front to provide genuine opportunities for black talent to progress their careers and transform the next generation of creative decision makers who will impact what we see on-screen in the future.”

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