UK Broadcasters Respond To Claims Of Black Actors Leaving For Opportunities In The USA

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 23, 2011 8:25 AM
5 Comments
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4 responses to last week's post about the so-called UK talent drain, as black British actors flee to the USA in search of believed to be better opportunities to work... if you missed the discussion click HERE & HERE to catch up...

First, the BBC has "rejected criticism that UK television does not provide enough parts for black actors, claiming that the Corporation “leads the way” in diverse casting," siting primetime drama series with starring roles for Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Second, unlike the BBC, UK's Channel 4 admits that “casting is always an area where we could do better,” and further that they are "aware of black actors looking for work in the US;“ although, while the USA might present "wider opportunities,” they believe there's also “more competition.” “An area where I think we can really make progress is by casting against type and taking more risks with talent. It’s an area where agents, producers and broadcasters can do more,” a rep for Channel 4 said.

Third, satellite broadcaster Sky also seems more sympathetic to the issue, saying the company “wholeheartedly believes its programmes should reflect modern Britain and the rich diversity of our society," stating, “We are absolutely committed to ensuring directors and casting directors give us diverse casts that go beyond token casting, but while we are making good progress in our original drama we still have a long way to go... The result creatively will be a much more interesting, rich, exciting and authentic experience.

And lastly, ITV said it is committed to “ensuring the programmes we broadcast across our schedule reflect the UK’s diversity," and that “We regularly monitor our content in terms of diversity portrayal. The results are shared with programme makers and commissioners in order to not only build on our success in this important area to date, but also to address areas that do not reflect our aim."

So, what're the folks at the BBC smoking? It seems like most agree that there is a lack of diversity problem that needs to be addressed. But I suppose being top dog has its privileges. I recall an interview in which a British actor (I believe it was Idris) who said that, for a British actor, working on a BBC show was the ultimate, and essentially as high as any actor could really go.

[The Stage]

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5 Comments

  • Afrobrit | July 13, 2011 12:46 PMReply

    The response from the British Broadcasters is a joke! This problem has gone on for decades and people like Lenny Henry - high profile black comedian has openly talk about this is issue in the media. The BBC which has no dramas featuring a woman of African descent in a main role and this is a service many people of African descent pay for each year - It 's disgusting!

  • Lynn | June 24, 2011 2:35 AMReply

    I dunno I think we complain too much as people. Yes I agree that there are way too many whites on TV and in lead roles in Hollywood. But other racial groups are hardly represented ex. Asians, Latinos, Indigeneous etc.

    I mean I think we need to stop complaining as people and stop waiting on the industry to recognize us as people.

  • cruz777 | June 24, 2011 1:20 AMReply

    @ eshowoman, the cranky film scholar

    where did you get the idea that the actress for Being Human U.S./Canada version was white? she's not.

  • MsWOO | June 23, 2011 10:21 AMReply

    Agreed, eshowoman. And it takes making a name for themselves as being the UK's biggest black exports of our time, acting wise (although, technically, they're actually re-imports, seeing as they had to leave before they could get the respect and recognition back home) to get Black Britsh leads on UK TV screnes.

    I'm still waiting for the great British film that will have either of them as central characters to the plot. But I won't hold my breath.

  • eshowoman, the cranky film scholar | June 23, 2011 9:15 AMReply

    I often enjoy the few British shows with black and Asian actors more than those in the US. They are usually less stereotypical Desmond's is the closest I have ever seen to my own family experience. Blacks in American shows are usually criminals or play second fiddle to white characters. Shows like Luther or the Shadow Line would never make it on American TV because of the narcissism of mainstream (read white) audience. The half caste actress in Being Human was replaced by a white actress in the American version. Even with these exceptions the BBC is nuts if they think that 2 shows with black male leads (and even less black women) can make up for decades of snow white TV.

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