Last week the CDN Commissioner Development Programme's Asif Hasan wrote this article for Broadcast magazine:
The BBC is working hard to reflect the UK's diversity
There is much to do, but it’s wrong to suggest progress hasn’t been made, says Asif Hasan
David Lammy’s comments about the BBC being “painfully slow”, and not delivering on diversity do not reflect my experience of working for the organisation.
I have been working at the Beeb as a commissioning executive for a year now. What struck me in my first months at the corporation – in fact surprised me – is how much diversity really mattered and the absolute determination to deliver on what had been promised.
There was a sense that better representation needed to become intrinsic to the commissioning process – and that has happened.
The BBC’s announcements and initiatives are not just hollow – more diverse content is being commissioned, suppliers are being held to account on representation and new opportunities are being given to talent, both on screen and off.
We know there needs to be much more success and we definitely do need to be held to account. It is unfair, however, of David to accuse the BBC of broadly failing to make progress.
I question the need for the catalyst fund he has proposed. Such strategies are well intentioned, but I worry what impact they would have in practice. The danger is that diversity would become a box-ticking obligation, where ideas get commissioned because a target has to be met.
We must principally be driven by a heartfelt desire to reflect our nation fully. To develop brilliant new diverse talent, to innovate and tell new stories, which are important, dramatic, entertaining, exciting and impactful.
It’s that heartfelt desire that has led to programmes like Employable Me, Undercover, The A Word, Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia and Asian Provocateur.
It’s that desire that has seen more diverse representation on our biggest shows, including Countryfile, The Great British Bake Off and Watchdog. It’s that desire that has led to my colleagues on the assistant commissioners scheme being put at the heart of the decision-making process.
They’ve been overseeing key shows, breaking new diverse talent and even acting as the commissioning lead on factual seasons. That doesn’t feel hollow to me.
What has heartened me most over the past 12 months is that the BBC is not only focused on greater representation and investment, but is also on improving the quality of outcomes. There is a lot of room for improvement, we know that - no one is looking for praise here - but we certainly don’t deserve to be painted as a well-intentioned failure.
When I started I couldn’t have anticipated that the most inspiring television moment of the year, if not the decade, would have been listening to the words of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab in the final of a competitive baking format. No other broadcaster has the ability to bring such moments to such a large audience.
As our country becomes more diverse, and potentially divided, we need these moments to inspire us all, to challenge perceptions about race, disability, class and age, but most importantly to celebrate our nation’s diversity and bind us together, on a scale that other broadcasters simply don’t. We need a strong BBC.
Link to the article: Broadcast Magazine - The BBC is working hard to reflect the UK's diversity
Asif Hasan is a Commissioning Executive in the Factual team at the BBC as part of the Creative Diversity Network's Commissioner Development Programme.