Channel 4 executives will be forced to give more leading roles in TV programmes to women and ethnic minorities or face losing their bonuses.
A new Diversity Charter launched by the broadcaster includes a pledge that a fifth of all staff will be from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, an increase of five per cent on current levels, the Independent writes.
Recruiters will also have to take account the sexuality of candidates, with a target of 6 per cent of the staff to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), up from 2.4 per cent currently.
TV executives who don’t meet the box ticking targets, which also include disabled actors and presenters, will find their bonuses are cut.
Programme makers must also ensure that half of the lead roles in TV shows are female, if no other minority groups feature: a decision which puts women in a grey area of not being a minority but unable to be sure they are recruited on their professional abilities.
The move follows a decision by the BBC Director of television Danny Cohen who last year announced, “we’re not going to have any more panel shows with no women on them.”
His comments were condemned by Mock The Week presenter Dara O’Briain who said “Legislating for a token woman isn’t much help.”
“It’s remarkable that this amount of time is spent debating women on comedy shows rather than, say, Question Time,” he added.
“A certain number of women want to go into comedy, and they should be cherished and nurtured, but you’re not going to shift the fact that loads more men want to do it.”
Guidelines state that entertainment shows, including panel shows, must demonstrate a quarter of ‘female on screen representation’ across a series as well as a minimum of 15 per cent of presenters who are LGBT, ethnic minority, disabled or “another under-represented group”.
According to the new rules, drama and comedies must “reflect the experiences of under-represented groups” in modern Britain in order to receive a tick in the relevant diversity questionnaire when programmes are being commissioned.
The box ticking targets could make it unlikely that Channel 4 will be commissioning many historical dramas or adaptations of classic novels as these inevitably contain mainly white characters.
Chief Executive of Channel 4 David Abraham said “It will be a black mark against that person [who has failed to meet targets]” at the parliamentary launch of the charter which was endorsed by Lib Dem Communications Minister Ed Vaizey.
But journalist and broadcaster Julia Harley-Brewer said firmly disagreed with the move, saying:
“The idea of quotas for women, ethnic minorities or gay people in this day and age is as laughable as it is patronising and offensive.
“Good people want to be hired because they are good at what they do, not because they have the ‘right’ skin colour or gender.
“Quotas undermine the very people they are supposed to help because everyone in that workplace will know that talent wasn’t the only criterion that got them the job.”