Star Wars actor Riz Ahmed calls on government to intervene to improve TV diversity
Actor Riz Ahmed has issued a rallying cry for diversity in the media, claiming the government should intervene to ensure that minority groups are better represented.
Delivering Channel 4’s annual diversity lecture in parliament, Ahmed also said more effort must be made to ensure that rising tuition fees do not restrict the types of people attending drama school, adding that opportunities to get under-represented groups into the creative industries should be protected.
“We are here to represent, and in that task, it pains me to say, we have failed,” Ahmed said.
He called on the government to step in and insist on requirements for more diverse employment and casting.
“It’s only the government that’s going to have the long view and see the really big picture, which is that what’s at stake isn’t whether or not you can turn out another period drama.
“What’s at stake here is whether or not we can move forwards together. If we don’t step up and tell a representative story, we’re going to start losing people.”
He was speaking to an audience of MPs and the media, as Channel 4 published its latest diversity charter report.
Ahmed, who has appeared in films including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Four Lions, added: “If you’re used to seeing yourself reflected in culture, take a minute to understand how much it means to someone who doesn’t.
“It’s a message that you matter, that you’re part of the national story, that you’re valid, you’re represented. If we fail to represent people in our mainstream narratives, they will switch off.”
His comments were echoed by culture minister Matt Hancock and MP Helen Grant, who sponsored the event.
Hancock said the industry “still needs to do more” to improve diversity and ensure that minority groups across society are represented.
“TV audiences are wide and diverse, so the industry must be too. While there’s already a push for greater diversity on screen, we must continue to support that, and it must be matched by a similar drive behind the scenes… It shouldn’t just be an echo chamber for one type of person,” he said.