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Sadiq Khan joins calls for more diverse TV shows

Sadiq Khan at the London Borough of Culture launch London mayor Sadiq Khan
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London mayor Sadiq Khan has become the latest high-profile figure to demand broadcasting regulator Ofcom put new measures in place to improve diversity on and off screen.

Khan has joined forces with actor and comedian Lenny Henry, who earlier this year called on the regulator to set minimum targets for black, Asian and minority ethnic diversity behind the camera as well as in front of it.

Khan has now written to Ofcom chief executive Sharon White arguing that the body should put in place clear requirements for broadcasters to meet.

In the letter, Khan calls on the regulator to provide more robust scrutiny of BAME representation to improve the situation.

His recommendations include creating an industry-wide definition of a “diverse production”, meaning at least 50% of production staff, 50% of onscreen talent and 30% of senior personnel working on the production must be from BAME backgrounds.

Khan writes that the definitions are at present “so broad” that they can be met without any people of colour employed either on or off screen.

He also calls for ring-fenced funding for diverse productions in both London and regionally, and suggests setting clear job targets that broadcasters must adhere to for different positions both in front of and behind the camera.

Khan said: “The three proposals are straightforward steps Ofcom can take to improve the lack of progress on BAME diversity in the broadcasting industry that you rightly describe as ‘woeful’ and ‘shocking’.

“The creative industries are at the heart of London’s culture and economy and put the UK in a leading position on the global stage. I believe the promotion of diversity in broadcasting is not only vital for the culture and profile of the UK but is critical for ensuring the commercial success and sustainability of one of the most important drivers of the London economy.”

Khan’s words come at the start of Black History Month, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in the UK.

It is time for broadcasters to “step up to the plate” around diversity, Khan said, while Henry added that the plea was “timely”.

Henry added: “We all know that ‘if you can’t see, you can’t be’ – Mr Khan’s words are a direct plea to Ofcom to put pressure on broadcasters to represent minorities both on screen and behind the camera. Only then will our UK TV and Film industries be truly representational.”

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