It’s worth bookmarking Unesco’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions here.
This is an important global statement on the need for cultural expressions to be produced, distributed, and owned ‘locally’ (in the Nations and Regions, using UK parlance) – and that strategies need to be in place to limit the dominance of ‘global’ (generally US) content that can fill TV schedules and cinema screens unless there are regulations in place to prevent this from happening.
The EU has the AVMS directive (lots of posts here), and it allows nations to avoid State Aid-rule based limitations on this activity – examples here. The UK has always had a strategy-in-a-box that has achieved this thanks to a variety of obligations to fund, produce, commission, and show UK content for UK audiences (and the regional equivalent), in the fact that we have the BBC and Channel 4 as incubators.
However, this should particularly worry us at the moment because….
- The UK is no longer in the EU – so those defences and – (if UK productions are reclassified as not being European Works) markets may disappear
- Our backup plan for this – use the BBC and C4 – may be ‘defunded’ in a variety of ways
- The combination of skills-gaps and burgeoning expansion for drama production in the UK may result in UK commissions being priced out of the market
This week’s Pact Census figures showing UK Commissions in headlong decline may prove to be a glimpse of the state of things to come…
But, it’s worth bearing all of this in mind when thinking about the campaigns that are uncomplicatedly ones about diversity of voice. In this article from Variety – ‘They Are Our Stories to Tell’: How Producers of Color Are Fighting for Their Seat at the Hollywood Table”, we see a point made that everyone is very familiar with at the moment. When stories about different social and ethnic groups are told “through the lens of a white creator …. the nuance and culture of those being portrayed is lost or misrepresented.”
“Kourtney Kang, (How I Met Your Mother, Fresh Off the Boat, Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.) says that diversity in the production process is still treated like a chore rather than an essential component.
“When we talk about diversity, it’s almost treated like eating your vegetables. It’s something you have to do,” she says. “We need fresh perspectives and new voices. We’ve told all these same stories over and over. And now, why not tell them through a different lens and make the entertainment more specific, and more interesting, which is ultimately better for business?””
This is an argument that has huge appeal – even UK conservatives are keen that Brits need stories set in the UK writen by our own writers, performed by actors with accents that we use ourselves. UK audiences may be more demanding than audiences anywhere else – and diversity is an argument that – in this case – unites.