President of Big Brother, MasterChef and Broadchurch maker says tackling race, gender and disability will only get the industry ‘halfway’ towards diversity.
One of the UK’s leading TV executives has described the industry as “hideously middle class” and called for measures of diversity in broadcasting and production to include class and social mobility.
Tim Hincks, president of Endemol Shine Group – which produces shows including Big Brother, MasterChef, Broadchurch and Humans – said that tackling issues such as race, gender and disability would only get the industry “halfway” to creating a truly diverse workforce.
“If Greg Dyke was able to say that the BBC was hideously white, it’s not overstretching it to say this industry is currently hideously middle class, and that’s an issue,” Hincks said in his Bafta TV lecture on Tuesday.
“That’s a big, big problem. It’s not moral it’s not political, I’m talking about the talent base. It’s the very basics we need to bring as many talents into this industry as we can and we’re hampering ourselves by not fishing in a bigger pool.”
Hincks said that shows such as Benefits Street or People Like Us, which was set in one of the UK’s most deprived areas, made people feel uncomfortable because they felt like shows about working class people made by middle class people.
“I don’t buy the ‘poverty porn’ argument – I think that’s overblown and hysterical,” he said. “[But] there’s an issue there, we feel exposed over shows like this. There’s a weak spot that we have that hampers the programme-makers and the broadcasters.
“It’s an industry-wide problem and it’s beyond shows like that. It’s got nothing to do with their creative intent or their quality, it is they feel like shows made by middle class people about working class people. The reason that makes us feel uncomfortable is because it’s true.”
Hincks said he was not privately educated but he had “engaged” parents with middle-class jobs and education was just one of many ways of assessing social mobility. However, he said looking at private education was one way the industry could move quickly to include some measure of social mobility in diversity monitoring efforts such as Project Diamond.
He cited research from industry body Creative Skillset saying 20% of the independent production sector’s staff come from private schools, and an internal Endemol Shine poll which found that a third of senior executives said they were privately educated.
He said Endemol Shine was creating 40 new two-week work experience places that would be paid the London living wage, and would ensure that every placement who came through knowing an executive would be matched by someone coming through “non-connected” routes.
“Last year Lenny Henry stood up here on this stage and kickstarted brilliantly the debate on diversity, and there’s real traction now as a result of that,” he said. “What I think is clear is that no measure of diversity can be truly meaningful without measuring and a measurement of social background and social mobility.”
“The private school issue is about stopping trying to pull the ladder up. We are not letting people in.”
Hincks joined Endemol – the company behind Big Brother – in 2002 and became president of Endemol Shine in October 2014 following the creation of a joint venture with Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Group and American Idol maker Core Media which created one of the world’s largest independent production companies.