Channel 4 has announced its off-screen commitments as part of Black to Front, following the publication of a report for the Channel by The Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity (LHC) at Birmingham City University.
Black to Front is an ambitious project focused on a day in September 2021 when Channel 4’s entire programming schedule will be fronted by Black talent and contributors. It will encompass every genre – from news to drama – and will involve all areas of the business including advertising, marketing, All 4 and social. The day aims to amplify Black voices, talent, and stories, and is part of the Channel’s ongoing commitment to improve Black representation both on and off screen.
To ensure the project drives significant and sustainable change within the industry, Channel 4 is working with LHC at Birmingham City University to help shape ambitious and meaningful off-screen commitments and to address specific challenges, barriers and issues identified in the industry.
Based on the recommendations of this extensive piece of work, Channel 4 is committed to increase Black representation on all shows featuring as part of Black to Front. Specifically:
- On all new commissions to aim to maximise Black representation off-camera, achieving teams where all roles are filled by Black talent
- On existing shows, to support indies to maximise Black representation off-camera
- To fund progression placements on at least 10 shows across the day to give Black talent real jobs, a supported step-up in seniority, maximise the number of credits they receive on the programmes and continued mentoring to ensure genuine progression
- To monitor these commitments to ensure all learnings and data are recorded and used to inform policy going forward through a manifesto of change to ensure systemic change.
Channel 4 is an anti-racist organisation and is aiming to increase Black representation in all departments including editorial, production, craft and technical and studio and at all levels of seniority. Representation in teams will be measured before and after Black to Front to track progress.
In addition, Channel 4 will ask indies to provide the percentage of staff spend that comprises talent from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background, for all shows that are part of BTF day where this is available.
As many as possible of the commissioners and staff with editorial input working for Channel 4 on Black to Front day will also be Black.
Kelly Webb-Lamb, 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.”
Marcus Ryder, Visiting Professor at LHC and Head of External Consultancies at Birmingham City University said: “We are encouraged by how Channel 4 has positively embraced the recommendations outlined by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity for the Black to Front day and recognise the need to prioritise Black representation behind the camera in positions of editorial responsibility as well as on-screen. We hope the report will not only help Channel 4 but inform other broadcasters in shaping their diversity and inclusion policies”.
Channel 4 will publish the learnings and data from Black to Front in order for the industry to assess where there are skill shortages and to inform policy going forward.
Black to Front was conceived by commissioning editors Vivienne Molokwu and Shaminder Nahal. It will be led by Deputy Director of Programmes, Kelly Webb-Lamb with Vivienne and Shaminder working across the whole day with Melissa Cousins as Project Coordinator. Head of Creative Diversity Babita Bahal and Director of Commissioning Operations, Emma Hardy are also part of the core team.