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TV must 'get real' on diversity says ex-EastEnders producer

MUST IMPROVE QUOTAS: Actress Tameka Empson plays the character of Kim Fox on EastEnders

FORMER EASTENDERS producer Barbara Emile has spoken out over the lack of diversity in the television industry and called for ring-fenced funding and quotas to correct this.

Emile who worked on the BBC soap during its peak in the 1990s says there was a need to change the mindsets of those in charge.

“It’s about proving there is an audience. If there is ring-fenced money this will take five years,” she said.

Her comments come after the show’s current producer, Dominic Treadwell-Collins, said he refused to ‘tick boxes’ by including more ethnic minority characters.

Speaking at Make Diversity Pay, a conference jointly hosted by the Royal Television Society and the BBC on Tuesday afternoon (March 3), Emile said the TV industry must “get real” on the issue.

“If we do not consider diversity in TV then Britain is at a disadvantage,” she said. “Does the market exist for diverse on-screen talent? And does the production talent exist? I think it does.”

The producer expressed that she shared the same position as veteran actor Lenny Henry in a call for the introduction of quotas and funding specifically designed to improve the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) talent on screen. The suggestion is also backed by Campaign for Broadcasting Equality spokesman Simon Albury.

Also present at the summit was Desmond's producer Charlie Hanson.

At its height, Desmond's commanded an audience of 5.2 million viewers. Hanson’s portfolio of work includes being the creator of the first sitcom featuring a black cast for Channel 4.

The film and TV producer critiqued the BBC saying it was “still lagging behind on diversity issues” and that the public broadcaster “originally created diverse programmes out of embarrassment for being left behind by others.”

EastEnders has been criticised in recent for being far less representative than the actually demography of east London.

The joint conference, which was held as part of the BBC’s Reflect and Represent Week, was chaired by Aasmah Mir and also featured former broadcaster and academic Diane Kemp.

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