CBS has announced that at least half the cast of the popular and long running reality game shows, including Survivor and Big Brother, will be made up of nonwhite contestants.
“The reality TV genre is an area that’s especially underrepresented, and needs to be more inclusive across development, casting, production and all phases of storytelling,” George Cheeks, president and chief executive officer for the CBS Entertainment Group, said in a statement. “As we strive to improve all of these creative aspects, the commitments announced today are important first steps in sourcing new voices to create content and further expanding the diversity in our unscripted programming, as well as on our network.”
The network made a pledge on Monday that half of future casts will be made up of blacks, indigenous, or other people of color, according to Entertainment Weekly. The network is also applying the new casting rule to its other reality game show Love Island.
The change in hiring comes on the tail of charges from a group of contestants who claim that Survivor and producer Jeff Probst are biased in favor of white players. The group, calling itself the Black Survivor Alliance, aimed to bring “light to our collective experience with implicit bias and racism on and off the show.”
Season four contestant Sean Rector claimed that the bias is evident because black participants Vecepia Towery-Robinson, Survivor: Marquesas winner, and season ten winner Earl Cole have never been called back for any of the subsequent shows featuring other winners.
“Television, specifically the Survivor franchise, has a responsibility and the power to represent a more just and equitable playing field as a benchmark of real progress for ALL people, and not some concession of perceived power or standing that had to be compromised by one group to another,” Rector told the magazine.
Another group of minority contestants headed by Survivor: Edge of Extinction’s Julia Carter have also alleged institutional bias at the network. Carter claims that the editing of the show also reveals bias. “The systematic/systemic racism, implicit bias, and microaggressions shown throughout the editing but especially during the final Tribal were so hard to watch. The thickness of the racism could be cut with a knife … ‘diverse’ does not mean the majority of the cast is white with a mixture of other races,” she said.
CBS’s decision here reflects moves being made across the entertainment industry to impose racial quotes in writer’s room, executive staff, and in casting. The Oscars once again came under fire for being too white, prompting the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to issue new “diversity” rules to be eligible to win an Oscar for Best Picture.
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