The Diversity Question

Like many people in the media industry, I’ve been thinking about diversity and representation a lot lately. I grew up never seeing faces like mine in the American and British shows I watched with my family.

The 1993 film Bhaji on the Beach, about a group of British Indian women, was a revelation to me. I had spent my whole life acutely feeling like the other, the outsider, grappling with living between two cultures. Gurinder Chadha’s brilliant film said, Yes, your story matters, you’re not alone.

That was 25 years ago and there are days when I’m honestly not sure how much progress has really been made. Because we’re still talking about it, aren’t we? We’re talking about why representation matters—shouldn’t that just be a given? Why wouldn’t television fully, accurately reflect the diversity of cultures and sexual orientations and economic backgrounds and body shapes and political viewpoints that make societies great? Why would we ever have to ask if diversity is a good thing? How could it not be? Study after study has demonstrated why we’re still not where we’re supposed to be when it comes to representation behind, and in front of, the camera. But the supersized MIPCOM edition of TV Drama has much to feel good about when it comes to how this particular genre is embracing broad spectrums of society. Greg Berlanti’s shows have been lauded for their diverse casts. We hear from S.W.A.T.’s Shemar Moore about how his show has helped to diversify the U.S. broadcast network landscape. Chris Chibnall talks about Jodie Whittaker being cast as the first female Doctor in Doctor Who history. Fremantle’s Sarah Doole discusses how her company is putting an emphasis on fostering women directors and producers. ITV Studios’ Maria Kyriacou notes that the industry has never been more open to new ideas than it is now. You’ll hear a similar sentiment from Emmy-winning actor Matthew Rhys as he talks about his latest project, Death and Nightingales. And Japanese producer Hisashi Tsugiya shares his perspective on the importance of representing societal issues in the shows he’s making for Nippon TV.

The MIPCOM edition of TV Drama also spotlights two hot genres in scripted—legal and medical—where stories often have to be grounded in reality for the shows to be successful. As platforms and producers finally get real about inclusion, perhaps we’ll reach a point where no one ever asks why diversity is important—they’ll just know that it is.

You can read the MIPCOM edition of TV Drama here.