British-Indian Actress Meera Syal says 'racial quotas' may be the way forward if the UK is to address the lack of diversity on British TV screens.
Speaking during the Act for Change conference in London on Tuesday, the 'Goodness Gracious Me' star lent her voice to the on-going debate about the need for TV productions to reflect the diversity in British society.
“For a lot of us this is like Groundhog Day. We were having these discussions thirty years ago and I can’t believe we are still having them", Syal said.
“I’d like to examine the most radical of the suggestions which is the quota system. With all the good will in the world attitudes just are not changing. If things are not changing, you have got to lead people that way. I know people are worried about tokenism but that only happens when there is not a lot of talent out there and there is a massive amount of talent.”
Despite her popularity as a stage, TV and film actress as well as an acclaimed writer, 53-year-old Syal's work has been largely confined to productions about her own community rather than the mainstream: a fate that has befallen innumerable actors Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities.
The absence of ethnic minority on TV has caused widespread anger.
Syal's comments echo those of comedian and actor Lenny Henry, who told the Guardian newspaper in June: "From making very small gains in the industry, when we had a little bit of representation, we have gone backwards. People aren't just hitting the glass ceiling: they are standing on a glass precipice."
While nearly 15% of the British population is from a BAME community, just over 5% of all jobs in the creative industry are held by people of ethnic origin: a statistic that is made starker given that the BAME community in London - home to a vast majority of the TV industry - constitute nearly half of the entire population of the UK capital.
It is an imbalance that Act for Change aims to redress.
Established in January 2014, the organization examines diversity in British TV drama and campaigns for more BAME representation on screen.
The organization is backed by several high profile TV stars, including Stephen Fry, Sophie Okonedo, David Harewood, David Morrissey and Jack Whitehall.
Read More »