Neila Butt, the creative diversity lead at Channel 4 explained the importance of authentic diversity and inclusion at Leeds Trinity University’s Journalism and Media Week.
Channel 4’s top priority is diversity in TV, the media and the United Kingdom as a whole. They do this by focusing on diversity, equality, inclusion and equity. This was demonstrated in their project Black to Front.
The project took place on 4 September 2021 where every programme and advert on that day not only featured but was written and produced by black people.
Channel 4 said they did this as part of their remit to represent and champion under-represented audiences and communities. Nelia, who had been in her position as the creative diversity lead for 5 months at the time of the project said it made her “feel proud and very emotional.”
When asked about the backlash that Channel 4 faced as a result of the Black to Front project Neila said “do you know what, who cares? That’s not going to stop us.”
The creative diversity team which Neila leads are also responsible for creating the diversity and inclusion commissioning guidelines. They state that independent production companies working with Channel 4 must be inclusive and have representation in their content.
However, Neila explained the dangers of tokenism that can arise from these stipulations and explained the importance of authentic representation. She stated that the only way to get diversity authentically is to have diverse people writing and producing the programmes. She said you must “seek out people who have lived experience.”
Neila explained that equity means not everyone is starting from the same place and that different people face different barriers. To counter this and diversify their workforce Channel 4 introduced 4PP. This was a post-production programme that offered 5 mid to senior level people from underrepresented backgrounds the chance to progress their careers in production. Neila said “we want to kickstart and motivate other broadcasters.”
Although Channel 4 are committed to diversity and inclusion there are still some areas that require improvement. Neila said the lack of representation for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds is “one of the areas we haven’t quite cracked.”
She explained that that these people require support economically, financially and showing that this is an industry for all and that this is a “key part of equity.”
Neila added to this explaining representation for people with disabilities is another area that Channel 4 are looking to develop.
Diversity is at the forefront of Channel 4 values where their purpose is to create change through entertainment. Neila Butt and her team are an example of Channel 4’s commitment to this.