Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Today We Launch the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity

Today, Wednesday 25th March, the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity is launched. It will be a virtual launch, for obvious reasons, but the work it needs to do is too important to put on hold. During times of crisis we need diversity in our broadcasters and newsrooms more than ever. When the current Covid-19 outbreak is over we will be holding  a public event.

Ever since plans for the Centre were announced I have received a lot of questions about the Centre, from asking what we hope to achieve to how people can get involved.  

As a member of the launch committee I hope I can answer some of the questions below but please feel free to post more questions in the comments section below or head to the Centre website and post a question directly to the Centre’s team

The Centre is an independent body where academics and media professionals can work together to study media diversity exploring which policies have worked in the past and what has failed. Through rigorous academic research, data analysis and first hand experience the Centre will explore the reasons for successes and failures alike and publicise this information as widely as possible with the objective of media organisations, broadcasters, unions, trade bodies, regulators, employees and policy makers being able to use it to increase diversity throughout the industry. It is based and funded by Birmingham City University.

We will have permanent staff working at the centre but we will also be working with academics from other institutions and media professionals. Initial discussions for the Centre involved academics from more than six universities and from media professionals who have worked for every UK terrestrial broadcaster as well as several who have worked for SVODs and digital platforms.

There are three major strands to our work:
  • Collecting all the great work that is being done by other institutions from universities to broadcasters to trade unions so people have easy access to it – where appropriate we will give the work a platform. The importance of this work stream to the Centre is highlighted by the fact we will be giving a platform to the actors’ union Equity’s report on east Asian representation on terrestrial television at the launch event.
  • We will analyse all the statistics being produced by various bodies and produce our own figures so we can track progress. 
  • We will analyse policies to see which ones have worked and which ones haven’t so we can promote good practice throughout the industry. Where appropriate we will also analyse the merits and disadvantages of policy suggestions by third parties.

The short answer is “yes”. The longer answer is we have limited resources so at this point we will have to focus on specific aspects of diversity in specific years. In the first year we will be looking at BAME representation in broadcasting. However we are open to talk to individuals and organisations with specific proposals that may fall outside any year’s specific focus. Also, irrespective of focusing on any specific element of diversity we recognise the importance of intersectionality and how it is impossible to look at any one aspect of diversity in isolation.

The best thing is to do is go online to the website and message the Director of the Centre Professor Diane Kemp https://www.bcu.ac.uk/media/contact-us. We will also be holding public meetings in April or May (although this might obviously be online now) so we can discuss with everyone in the industry what they want us to do. But, possibly the easiest and most pressing way to get involved is to help us with our current project of collecting all the UK reports on media diversity over the last twenty years. We have only just started this project and will be invaluable going forward. See the reports on the timeline here we have gathered so far and please send us any reports or suggestions.  

First of all, there are some great organisations doing great work already – like Directors UK, Women in Film and Television and brilliant academics, who are too numerous to mention, looking at these issues as well. We do not want to replace or replicate this great work instead we want to work with them – we are all stronger together. We hope the biggest difference is we are really going to focus on academics and media professionals working together. In many ways the idea of the Centre was born out of a simple idea from a blog post of academics being able to capture the institutional memory of media professionals and the two groups working together. We hope this will continue to be the underlying ethos of the Centre.

Additional note. I am just one member of the Centre’s launch committee – the article above reflects only my views. For official information on the Centre please visit its website and subscribe for regular updates.

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