ITV’s 2019 Olivier Awards broadcast has been condemned for its “shocking and deeply disrespectful” coverage of the obituaries section.
Union Equity made the accusation in a letter it has written to the broadcaster, to “express the sadness and dismay felt by many members” over the way in which the section was presented on screen. The In Memoriam part of the ceremony commemorates industry figures who have died in the past year.
According to the letter from Equity’s general secretary Christine Payne and president Maureen Beattie, the images and names of those remembered were “almost entirely side-lined by shots of the singers providing what was intended to be a backing track”.
The letter said: “As you will know our union represents performers and other creative practitioners who work in the television industry, and we understand how quickly that culture is changing and how the assumption that an audience has a shorter and shorter attention span is now deep in the DNA of programming.
“However, the treatment of the obituary section of the Olivier Awards in the ITV programme shown [on April 7] was nothing short of shocking and deeply disrespectful.”
It adds: “We are, of course, delighted that ITV allows a ceremony that shows our industry to such a great advantage to be seen by a much larger and wider audience, but we would respectfully suggest that in future years care should be taken to avoid a similar situation occurring again.”
The Olivier Awards are produced by the Society of London Theatre, with ITV taking SOLT’s coverage and broadcasting a highlights show later that same evening.
ITV confirmed the executive producer of the show has already replied to Equity on behalf of the broadcaster.
A spokeswoman for ITV said: “It was not our intention for the coverage to be perceived as disrespectful.
“It is incredibly important for SOLT and ITV to respect and honour those that have made such important contributions to the entertainment industry through the years and to make sure we get this section of the coverage right going forward.
“SOLT and ITV have already agreed to have discussions about how this important moment is best covered in future.”