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How can we make it better?
How can we make it better?
So now here’s the fun bit: I asked programme-makers for their ideas on how to
move beyond simply articulating the problems. How could we overcome the
initiative-fatigue and resistance to cultural diversity as it has been framed until
now? How can we develop a shared language that moves away from box-ticking
to talking about creative opportunities?
It’s The Programmes, Stupid
The message loud and clear was that audiences are ready to be surprised,
challenged and stretched, so focus on the programmes. It is not diversity policies
or employment targets that create an inclusive National Conversation; it’s good
programmes that bring audiences together.
Comedies that aren’t funny, dramas that don’t touch you, documentaries that are
superficial or poorly researched, news reports that ask the wrong questions… in
the end bad programmes which happen to feature the demographically correct
quota of minority faces don’t do anyone any favours. You can’t have a National
Conversation through broadcasting if millions of people switch off. As in any
conversation, if people feel insulted or patronised they will turn away and once
trust is lost, it’s far harder to win it back.
Recent broadcasting history is littered with programmes that have alienated
people from minorities. Examples most frequently cited by my interviewees were
the first series of The Crouches, All About Me, and the Ferreira family storylines
in Eastenders. All these started with a good intention: let’s put some under-
represented people on screen. But they all failed to introduce any authentic
voices. On the other hand, there have been some excellent programmes which
have been recognised for opening up many new avenues for communication:
If you make something like Every Time I Look At You which is good
telly, a love story which happens to have two disabled actors in the
lead role, you are probably doing more for changing attitudes
towards disabled people in that one programme than three series of
documentaries about the problems of access for disabled people.
Nobody wants the sympathy vote. - Director
Unlike all those documentaries which tend to highlight the
differences, say look, how odd and strange these people’s habits and
customs are, what Goodness Gracious Me did, and what comedy
does anyway (if you don’t understand it you aren’t going to laugh),
is say that fundamentally we are all the same. Fundamentally we all
have families and we all live in houses and we all fight over who had
the last creme egg, that is what happens and everyone goes: They
are the same as us. Revolution, my God! - Producer
If the aim is to have more programmes that build imaginative bridges between
the different groups that make up our society, we need to learn from the
mistakes and recognise the successes. We need to identify those elements that
contribute to effective communication across cultural divides and create a
language to talk about them in programme-making.