Opening the glamorous BAFTA TV Awards at London’s Royal Festival Hall today, BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar called on the industry’s change makers to ensure more top-level diversity.
Majumdar — who is the first non-white chair of BAFTA — told the audience in his speech that “we desperately need diversity among leaders and the gate keepers who run television – at board level, heads of channels, key creatives and decision makers.”
While Britain’s TV industry has taken steps to address its ongoing issues with representation and diversity, precious little progress has been made at that top tier.
“This room is full of the most influential people who work in television,” he said. “We have a chance to make a difference. We have a responsibility to the audiences we serve and to those who come after us. There wasn’t anyone who looked like me on TV when I was growing up. Seeing is believing. It gives people the chance to more than dream.
“We also need more change behind the camera. And if, at this defining moment, a venerable institution like Bafta can elect someone like me to lead the Academy, the son of an Indian immigrant who arrived on a boat in the 1960s, then surely change must and can happen at the very top of the industry.
Krishnendu, who is the co-founder of British indie Me+You Productions, also used his speech to say that “while we welcome and embrace innovation and evolution”, the UK should “cherish” public service broadcasting.
“You can see from the excellence of the nominations this year the amazing results of the current system. Public service television is one of the foundations of distinctiveness and independence of thought in this country.
Mark Rylance stood on this stage six years ago and said: “We’re a nation of storytellers, we’re admired around the world for it… and woe to any government or corporation who gets in the way of that.” His words carry more weight now than ever. Now is time for the industry to come together and stand up to make the case to protect public service broadcasting.
His words were almost certainly driven by the likely privatization of broadcaster Channel 4 and government threats to change the BBC licence fee funding model. Should either or both scenarios play out, the public service broadcasting system would be fundamentally altered — for the worst, most industry watchers believe.