Channel 4 has launched its Year of Disability in 2016, and promises major new commitments to increase the representation of disabled people in the television industry.
The focus on disability coincides with the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and aims to build upon the ongoing initiatives outlined in last year's 360° Diversity Charter which aimed to improve access for all under-represented groups such as BAME, LGBT and women.
In 2017, Channel 4 will focus on a different diversity theme.
As part of the Year of Disability, the broadcaster will be doubling the number of disabled people appearing in 20 of Channel 4’s most popular shows, including Gogglebox, The Island, Grand Designs, Hollyoaks and First Dates.
Additionally £300 000 will be invested in exciting new talent initiatives.
Within Channel 4, 50% of all the broadcaster’s apprenticeships and 30% of all work experience placements will be ring fenced for disabled people.
The broadcaster has also made an off-screen commitment to progress the careers of 20 disabled people already working in the industry in Channel 4's 20 biggest suppliers.
The announcement has been praised by Culture Minister, Ed Vaisey MP, who said “it’s good that Channel 4 is keeping this issue prominently on the agenda. But this is only the beginning.”
Minister for Disabled People Justin Thomlinson MP added “Channel 4 has set the standard for disabled representation both on and off screen.
I am delighted that Channel 4 have made this Paralympic year their Year of Disability and would challenge the rest of the industry to follow their lead.”
They echoed the sentiments of Channel 4 Chief Executive David Abraham, who said “I hope that with the launch of 2016 as our Year of Disability we can extend the impact of this Paralympic year right across our schedule and help to do something lasting to increase representation of disabled people on, and off-screen.”
The 360° Diversity Charter has met the majority of its targets in 2015, with 85% of Channel 4 commissions meetings the Commissioning Diversity guidelines - up from 67% pre-Charter.
The Indie Growth Fund also committed £1.6m to production companies with a significant BAME shareholding, including Voltage TV and Whisper Films, who were recently awarded the Formula 1 contract on Channel 4.