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Shocking! New Study Shows That British Film/TV Industry Discriminates Against Minority Groups ("They're Not Trusted")

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by Tambay A. Obenson
April 12, 2012 2:10 PM
9 Comments
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A new study on the British film and television production industry, presented on Tuesday at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference, is apparently causing a bit of a stir in the British film and TV industries.

Why? What else? Take a guess!

The Brit industry is accused of being discriminatory practices against the minorities, women and working class and nepotism.

In short, the study states that minorities, women and the working class are discriminated against because...

... they were not trusted insiders. They did not have the right accents, hairstyles, clothes or backgrounds to join the best networks.

Well, at least, they're upfront about it; nothing covert about this huh?

The study's research shows just how insular the industry is, stating that...

... most jobs were gained through friends and friends of friends. Openings were rarely advertised and producers and directors tended to rely on the grapevine.

As the UK's Independent paper notes, the release of the study comes after actor Maxine Peake spoke out about the lack of working class female film roles in Britain, stating in an interview, "It's still rife. We're still obsessed with accent and class in this country."

So nothing terribly new here, but I post it because it's right inline with all the discussion that's been had on the talent drain of black British actors looking to the USA for work, given the lack of opportunities where they are; a problem that also resembles the plight of black American actors in the USA, especially those working within the studio system.

But this study's focus is not so much on talent, but the men and women behind-the-scenes, in cubicles and excecutive suites. And again, the same can be said for black professionals in the industry here in the USA; how often have we heard about the lack of black men and women in positions of real power at any Hollywood studio?

But I guess I'm kind of taken by the explicitness of the reasons given in the case of the Brits - that the under-represented aren't "trusted insiders," and don't have the "right accents, hairstyles, clothes," etc.

However, yes, this problem of a lack of representation of minority groups in front of and behind the screen is probably universal.

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9 Comments

  • urbanauteur | April 13, 2012 4:47 PMReply

    I cant help but put myself in the big shoes of expatriots like James Baldwin,Richard Wright,Josephine Baker,Assaka Shakur,Randel Robinson etc.. and be reminded of british essayist-Paul Gilroy's poignant book of essays-aply titled-There Aint No Black in the Union Jack-this is a great book of essays- exposing this country's continued XENOPHOBIA towards its black-brown bethren, if not now, but possibly in the not so distant future, ENGLAND, will have its own bloody "Hunger Games", weather they like it or not.

  • Ava | April 12, 2012 8:20 PMReply

    This article reminds me of a conversation I had with a British born South Asian man my first time in Britain, where he asked how long does one have to live in Britain to be accepted as British? He was asking not in terms of years but in terms of generations!

    My Aunt (may she rest in peace) lived in London for over thirty years, yet never felt truly connected to the place. She finally repatriated back to JA after taking an early retirement. feeling there was no reason really to stay. It is a really complex strange unsettling situation for me when I was there. At times I felt embraced by people my age, many who assumed I was in fact British but I can remember the look on the Customs/Immigration agent's face was one of instant disdain upon setting foot in his 'Green and Pleasant Land'. Then again, I find myself in a strange, unsettling and frustrating situation in the U.S. as well. Only, unlike in England, here they don't make it explicit, often times you are left to wonder and assume why you continually get passed over after receiving effusive compliments.

  • paul zabe | April 12, 2012 4:27 PMReply

    although i am not british i have to object to your comments my favorite tv show is a british production of Merlin In the show the actress who portrays Guinevere is black and a black man is one of the knights of the round table this is the first time i have ever seenwhite characters played by black actors traditionally

  • Charles Judson | April 12, 2012 4:09 PMReply

    Interesting that this follows a few weeks after someone else in the UK TV industry opined that there was a distinct lack of diversity in the actors who were coming in to read for parts. From that S&A post: 'BBC Controller of Drama Series and Serials Kate Harwood recently told The Telegraph that "there are more black faces on television than when she started", but "she has heard criticism that many of the black actors who come to auditions are “posh Africans” and not representative of all social classes."' This seems to reinforce that there really is more to what Harwood was hearing than just Blacks aren't being "Ghetto enough" as was asserted in that March S&A post. It brings back to light how much casting issues in front of the camera are definitely affected by who's behind the camera. One has to wonder how many great actors of color, and just in general, are being passed over because they don't have the right accent or background. Going back to that original S&A post from March, this also illustrates how much we can shortchange larger more global conversations when we selectively interpret people's language and filter those words and thoughts through a vary narrow view point.

  • Curtis J. | April 12, 2012 3:56 PMReply

    Steven makes a great point here, one I never really considered.

  • Emmett Period | April 12, 2012 3:19 PMReply

    Here's an idea, Get Idris to start a "Kick Starter" Campaign for funding, get Steve McQueen to direct, initiate a Global Casting of Black Actors/Actresses, Sell the DVD/Streaming online for 10 bucks a pop. Burn Hollywood Burn !

  • Masha Dowell | April 12, 2012 3:39 PM

    Good idea!

  • Steven | April 12, 2012 3:07 PMReply

    I'm not that surprise but I expected as much. I think every prominent black person in front of and behind the camera should invest time, money, and talent in Nollywood.

  • ALEX | April 12, 2012 3:55 PM

    Mmm its certainly established, can't knock Nollywood for that. I want to make more mainstream films in Ghana. My cousin is already on it working on K-Horror feature ideas but with Ghanaian actors and not skimping on the quality.

    Im British and I work in the industry, this is not news, and it certainly will do little to give the stagnant, middle class white men (and women) a kick up the arse to change their ways. Their is always a friend or acquaintance from the circle who will brush past you to get that coveted job. The best we can do is keep proving how good we are and start churning more out there and making more noise. Its laborious having to beat fists all the time, after being turned away constantly. Just makes me that more resilient. I will say this though, sometimes all this seems for nothing - whatever the cause we need a better support network.

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