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UK Film & TV Charity publishes industry perspectives on anti-racism

The UK’s Film & TV Charity has published a host of industry perspectives on anti-racism as it seeks to “catalyse industry-led action” ahead of the launch of a £1m (US$1.4m) Impact Partnership Scheme in early 2022.

Sasha Salmon

The viewpoints are presented in two documents: Think Piece on Anti-Racism in the Film & TV Industry and Racial Diversity Initiatives in UK Film & TV.

The former reports on experiences of racism in the industry and has been written by Sasha Salmon, a senior public policy advisor with expertise in anti-racism and equality.

Salmon also commissioned the latter document from Dr Clive Nwonka and Professor Sarita Malik, which surveys and analyses the major racial diversity initiatives in the industry over the last two decades.

Talking about the rationale behind her own piece, Salmon said: “Racism is deeply entrenched in society and hard to escape. It should be widely accepted that all of us will have racial and social biases and, rather than claim defensively to ‘not be racist,’ everyone should be working to honestly understand and dismantle racist structures and behaviours.

“We should all be seeking to be actively anti-racist. In completing this review, it was clear to me that while many in film and TV speak about diversity, few people and leaders have really recognised and internalised what racism looks like in the industry for individuals, and the way structures enable this.

“Understanding this and being honest about complicity is a vital step to inform anti-racist action. The relationship-based structure of the UK film and TV industry described throughout the review makes it particularly ripe for racism and bias.

“Given the influence film and TV has on society at large, this has damaging effects. If this industry gets it right, there is a precious opportunity to illuminate and change perceptions around race and help dismantle racism.”

The charity is extending an invitation to industry leaders to participate in a series of roundtables with the ambition of agreeing a new Anti-Racism Action Platform for UK film and TV by summer 2022.

Discussing the publication of the two pieces, The Film & TV Charity CEO Alex Pumfrey said: “Our ultimate intention with both of these documents is to catalyse industry-led action. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the unequal impacts of the pandemic, we heard the clear testimony of people of colour working in film and television – our beneficiaries – living with both interpersonal and structural racism in our industry.

“We heard how this was impacting not only their career progression but their wellbeing and their mental health. For some, it ultimately affected whether or not they could stay within the industry.

“Many of the industry’s employers are pursuing reinvigorated diversity and inclusion strategies in response to the events of the last 18 months. We know from our recent conversations how desperately keen many are to deliver real progress and meaningful actions.

“We felt that a specific focus on racism, honestly recognising it as an entrenched structural and cultural dynamic of the industry, could complement and add to organisation-based DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] work, by unlocking for those who do not experience racism a deeper understanding of what racism in the industry is and how it operates.”

In parallel to the charity’s calls for the Anti-Racism Action Platform, it is also continuing to develop its own Anti-Racism Action Plan and, in early 2022, will be launching its Impact Partnerships Programme.

This will funnel £1m of investment over a period of three years into organisations and community groups led by people of colour, for people of colour.

The Impact Partnership Programme responds to Salmon’s observation that for anti-racist interventions to be effective, they should be adequately funded, long-term and put the expertise of colleagues of colour in the foreground.

The programme will support the partner organisations to ensure their own sustainability while leading on innovative anti-racist projects that seek to make interventions at a structural level.

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