By: Twitter Buttons

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Pat Younge on diversity in the television industry

On Monday, I attended an evening with Patrick Younge hosted by presenter and journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Pat has recently been appointed as the Chief Creative Officer of BBC Vision, making him the most highly placed figure from a minority background in the television industry. This event was also the launch of the British Black and Asian Programme Maker's Collective, aka The TV Collective. Their aim is to provide a network where people can debate, showcase ideas, support and brainstorm ways of tackling the issue of diversity in television and the event on Monday was a sign of great things to come. With growing support from the industry including former MP Oona King, who is now Head of Diversity at Channel 4, I guess now is the time for action.

Pat has had a long career working in television and most recently headed up The Travel Channel in the United States. In his new role at the BBC, he will be responsible for comedy, drama, entertainment and children, with shows including Strictly Come Dancing, Doctor Who, Top Gear and EastEnders in his control. At last year's Edinburgh Television Festival, he famously remarked that diversity targets should be like financial targets and if people failed to hit them, then they should be fired. With this strong desire to make the industry less white and middle class, it will be interesting to see if there are any visible changes both at the BBC and in television in general over the next few years.

Here are the key points/learnings I gained from the evening:

Diversity is not only limited to race, although it is often the first thing that comes to mind. The television industry needs to be more inclusive in terms of gender, culture, age, disabilities and probably most importantly class. The industry is still regarded as one full of Cambridge and Oxford types, who have the insider information, knowledge of the unwritten rules and industry contacts that people from working class communities, (white working class included) do not have. This is a major barrier that needs to be challenged.

There has been progress over the years in regards to the people we actually see on our screens; actors, actresses, newsreaders, presenters and television personalities in general - although it might not be as much as we would like, we have definitely seen a wider representation of people looking back at us than ten years ago. However, it's behind the camera that the major problem lies. Behind the camera is where the power and the decision making is and if there is a narrow range of views, opinions and perspectives there, then that will be reflected on the television channels. Pat highlighted ITV for not having any commissioners from ethnic backgrounds and that this is evident in their programming. Therefore, here is where action is urgently needed. Training schemes that nurture talent, give people the opportunity to get their foot in the door and also develop their skills along their career path is a key way ensuring that in the future, executives at the top of the television industry are more representative of the audiences they serve.

Pat gave a useful piece of advice for people aspiring to work in television: know what you are good at. Not everyone is good at presenting or directing or producing or developing creatives. Pat's skill is managing and nurturing talent. Work out what your skill is and hone it to ensure that your not a jack of all trades and master of none. You'll probably progress in your career much faster. Also, it's important to know that there are so many different areas of television that you can get involved in, its not only about producing programmes. Marketing, publicity, finance, legal, talent management - do some research and find a path that suits you.

My personal concern is that in this strive for diversity, it may be all a bit too easy for it to turn into a numbers game. That is often the problem when targets are introduced. I am all for good talent rising to the top and diversity policies should be implemented to ensure that people have the OPPORTUNITY to gain skills and experience that they would not normally have access to. This way, the idea that "the cream of the crop will rise to the top" is one that still stands. However, if in order to meet targets, production companies and television channels just employ to fulfil a quota, then nothing will have really changed.

I also really do hope that this renewed drive is not another soapbox where we highlight the issues but nothing gets done. Remember that there is power in numbers and it is important to not expect too much from Pat's new position - he is only one man who has a range of responsibilities at the BBC, diversity only being one of them. It is up to us to continue to put pressure on the industry and transform all this talk into change. To get involved in The TV Collective, find out about training schemes, jobs and to network visit their facebook group.

What are your thoughts? What are your experiences within the television industry? What would you advise The Collective to do, what would you like to see from them? Speak on it and lets get this ball rolling!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Behind every successful man, there is a strong woman...standing in front of a stove.

This post is inspired by stories I have read recently about high profile men in the entertainment industry and the role their wives play. Tameka 'Tiny' Cottle, former singer of girl group Xscape, now more commonly known as rapper TI's wife/fiance/girlfriend/mother of his children, has allegedly been trying to restart her career for quite a while now. Now that she has her own reality show with Li'l Wayne's ex-wife (please, I don't have the energy to go there!), it looks like she is finally starting to make her own moves. However, she is often reported to say that TI is not completely happy with her ambitions to pursue a career of her own and would much rather she stay a housewife to maintain the home and look after their children. Second story - Tyrese Gibson, Coco Cola bus singer and actor is currently in the process of divorcing his wife. He met her while she was studying in London (yes ladies, we all had a chance!) and then she moved over to the states with him to set up home. Now he's divorcing her, to avoid paying her thousands in alimony, he is allegedly saying that there is no reason why she cannot get a job and pay her own way, despite the fact that he was more than happy for her to be the little stay at home wifey during their five year marriage.

My question here is why do some men meet a successful ambitious female, make her his wife and then resign her to a life of picking out china to match the wallpaper in the kitchen? Can a powerful man be happily married to a powerful women, one that has her own ambitions or must she spend the whole of their married life standing behind that powerful man, holding him up.

Guys, she was ambitious and successful when you met her, it was one of the reasons that you fell in love with her, but as soon as you put that ring on her finger you feel that the best place for her is in the home. Is this fear? Intimidation? Is it a hit to the man's pride that the women has her own and doesn't necessarily NEED them. Neyo sings of Miss Independent, but is that what men really want from a wife? By keeping her in the home, giving her an allowance every month and supplying her with new edition Louis Vuitton handbags, the woman builds up a level of dependency on her fella. It gives him the allowance to do as he pleases, playing on the fear that if she was to leave, she'd leave with nothing (well maybe half).

Or is it less premeditated and manipulative than this and simply down to values that have been instilled in some men over time? Although we have progressed quite a bit from the 1950's, traditional values of the man being the breadwinner and the woman maintaining house and home are still present. Some guys have grown up with that dynamic in their own homes and naturally want it for them and their children too. But can this still work in a time where women are now more career focused than ever?

Out of interest... Guys: would you be more attracted to a career focused woman or one with traditional values of staying home and raising the family? Be honest, do you feel intimidated by powerful, successful women? How would you feel if your wife's career was steps ahead of your own?

Ladies: as females, should we make husband and children a priority over our own career and personal ambitions? Alternatively, would you mind being the breadwinner of the family while the other half takes the role of stay-at-home-dad?

Can two powerful people remain happily married or is it natural for competition and intimidation to take hold?

Let me know your thoughts...

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