As part of our Scene Profiles series, we caught up with the lovely Tanya Mukherjee, Diversity Manager at ITV, to discuss her role as well as her thoughts on diversity in the UK television industry.
Please can you describe your role at ITV?
I’ve joined the Diversity team to work on our partnership activities with the Creative Diversity Network and to focus on onscreen diversity across ITV channels. We’ve got some work to do on the latter but there’s some real momentum on this at a senior level.
Soaps & Continuing Drama are at the heart of ITV’s diversity successes and I’ve been working with Emmerdale on an initiative for BAME writers living in Yorkshire & the North East. There’s a significant underrepresentation of writers from minority backgrounds so it’s a chance to address that and connect with local, regional talent. But moreover, it’s bringing that creative talent to ITV and signposting that we want a relationship.
What has been your career path – how did you get to where you are today?
I started in publishing then got a job in TV drama working my way up to script editor. I worked in a few roles at ITV but have always had a passion for making programming diverse so I’m enjoying this challenge now. It’s also interesting to see things from the broadcaster perspective as opposed to programme making. I know what it’s like to be out of work, waiting to get another show, and when you are from a minority background there can be a nagging doubt that you’re not getting the same opportunities as everyone else. You have to be very confident to put that to one side and persevere.
What is ITV's mission and objectives when it comes to diversity?
To ensure our content reflects the nation, with authentic portrayals that avoid stereotypes, and to make our programmes accessible to everyone. That follows through in the workplace, making sure it’s fully inclusive for everyone who works here.
The business case is key – understanding the commercial correlation between onscreen diversity and bringing in new audiences and ultimately revenue. ITV doesn’t have platforms to test talent out like BBC2 or 3, BBC Radio and E4, for example. There’s pressure on shows to be a commercial hit straight away on both ITV1 and ITV2, plus we do a lot more mainstream, non-niche programming. The overriding factor though is that our audiences are changing, the UK is changing and global sales are a priority too. If you’re looking at global audiences, ‘ethnic minorities’ certainly aren’t in the minority. Add aggregate audiences who identify as disabled or LGBT in worldwide markets and you’re looking at some serious volume too. So that commercial imperative is what should drive change in terms of diversifying content. We have to reflect our audiences and make relevant content.
It’s important to note that it’s not just minority audiences who want to see themselves on TV; lots of viewers, especially in urban centres, want to see the nuances and diversity of their worlds reflected too. It’s a myth that white audiences turn off when there’s a non-white cast for example – the upshot is that you attract both BAME and white audiences and we’ve got the figures to prove it.
What schemes and projects are ITV currently running in regards to diversity at the channel. Also, what have been some of ITV's success stories in this area?
We partnered up with the FPS (Foundation Placement Scheme) in Yorkshire and the MFPS (Media Foundation Placement Scheme) in Manchester, (which aimed to give young BAME talent the skills to break into the industry), and ran ITV Enabling Talent for talented TV types who had a disability. One graduate of the MFPS scheme got a placement on Corrie, which turned into a full time role with the editorial team. He’s now writing his own original scripts and was selected as one of this year’s Media Guardian’s ‘One’s to Watch’ for the Edinburgh TV Festival. Another colleague joined the business through Enabling Talent with social anxiety disorder. As well as holding down a demanding job, he’s been facilitating great projects as ITV’s Diversity Champion for Disability and won our internal Pitch Star competition for most innovative programme idea. Individual stories like these are really meaningful.
You can’t keep re-running positive action or diversity schemes so it’s important that the institutional process changes as a result. We’ve made diversity an intrinsic part of Recruitment and Graduate programmes and ITV Apprenticeships in terms of how and where we attract people.