Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Curse Of Potential

In recent months I have become a massive fan of Twitter. I’m not so much into the celebrity Twitterers so I don’t follow Lady Gaga or Stephen Fry, nor do I care that much about friends twittering about what they ate for breakfast or what film they are about to see.
Instead I love Twitter because it tells me about things larger media organisations don’t, my favourite Twitterers point me to web sites I didn’t even know exist and increasingly I often get breaking news before it’s officially reported by traditional broadcasters.
It is for this last reason that I turned to Twitter to find out the winners of the RTS journalism awards last week. As each award was announced @TVNewsroom let his 1,244 followers know who the winners were. And so it was at exactly 22.17pm on Wednesday 23rd February that I learnt that Rohit Kachroo had won Young Journalist Of The Year.
This is the second year in a row that a BME reporter has been awarded the Young Journalist Of The Year, the year before it was Tamanna Rahman. Anyone who has seen Rohit’s work on Channel 4 or Tamanna on the BBC will know they are both worthy winners. My concern is that their achievements point to a pattern that seems to be common in the television industry.
BME talent often seem to tick the “has potential” box. Ever since I have worked in television when it comes to BME staff the focus is invariably on the “young” and “potential”. Until recently nearly all initiatives to increase BME representation behind the camera have focused on young entry level positions. This strategy has been going on for over twenty years. For over twenty years we have had our “great potential” praised and are told we are about to be the “next big thing”.
However for staff from diverse backgrounds being the “next big thing” has rarely translated into being the “actual big thing” ten / twenty years down the line. Something is clearly happening from our youth being lauded to it translating into long-term careers.
While prizes are very nice and going to black tie events are great for our egos we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of the bigger goal. The goal of more people from diverse backgrounds having long, fulfilling, meaningful careers in television. A glittering career that ends at thirty followed by short-term contracts and long periods of unemployment is a pattern I have seen too often among my BME and disabled colleagues.
We need to identify the career obstacles and stumbling blocks that mean that we invariably have problems fulfilling our amazing “potential”. The success of Rohit and Tamanna once again confirm that given a level playing field diverse talent have the skills and determination to succeed in one of the most competitive industries in the world. The challenge for the TVCollective is to make sure that we can help the likes of the two recent young journalist of the year translate their recent success into even bigger and brighter awards in the future. The test for the television industry is to recognise that our talent doesn’t end when we stop being young.
The RTS Programme Awards is on 15th March read full shortlist  here.
(First published on on 11/03/2011)

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