Eight months on from the broadcasters announcing new initiatives on diversity, across the industry there’s a sense of a nettle being grasped. On screen, in production offices and in commissioning teams, there are signs of real change. And that’s long before the data is published that will measure it.
All TV industry watchers know that, thanks largely to Lenny Henry, diversity remains high on television’s agenda. In the past year or so, the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky have each made big announcements, pledging to improve their on-screen representation of minorities and to do more to nurture and encourage multi-ethnic and diverse workforces.
But has genuine change finally kicked in? That was the question that Sky News reporter Afua Hirsch wanted answering as she chaired a packed and often emotional RTS event provocatively entitled "Diversity: job done?".
On 18 September 2016, Steve November has a problem. At 9:00pm that night, the slot arrives in ITV’s schedule that would normally be filled by the season premiere of Downton Abbey.
As Director of Drama for the ITV network, November has to find a replacement – Downton is ending, with the last ever episode to air this coming Christmas Day. And, given Downton’s blockbuster ratings performance, it’s going to be a fiendishly difficult act to follow.
The economic arguments for diversity came under the microscope at a lively joint RTS/BBC session held at New Broadcasting House last month. The panellists agreed that, following years of inaction, broadcasters are finally making an effort to boost black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in television.
A year ago two things happened within a few weeks of each other. As the Chair of the RTS Diversity Committee, the two events will forever be linked. The first is a good friend died, the second is the BBC's Director General Tony Hall made a speech about diversity.
Let me start by telling you about the first.
The Creative Diversity Network (CDN) and Creative Skillset have called for the TV industry to improve the representation of disabled people in television.
According to Creative Skillset's workforce survey, released in May, the proportion of disabled people in television is still much lower than in the economy as a whole and has not improved for 10 years.
Just 5% of those who work in TV consider themselves to be disabled, compared with 11% of the wider working population.