What happened to the Desmond’s, the Jackson’s and to the Valentine’s? More specifically, what happened to the ethnic representation within the world of TV? Though we have the Masood’s in EastEnders, there is still a huge lacking of diversity on the TV. As the UK is becoming more diverse, so too should the TV programmes which are supposed to be a reflection of the society we live in.
We may have seen some breakthrough in advertisement in terms of ethnic representation (though there is a still long to go), the writers for TV programmes seem to have failed to realise that people of ethnic background makes up roughly 14% of the UK population.
When the debacle surrounding Midsomer Murders race row came about earlier this year, many people unfortunately were not surprised with the comments that were made from Brian True-May, who said that having a diverse cast wouldn’t work for the show. The sad fact of the matter is that there are many people who feel uncomfortable with the notion of having ethnic families being represented on TV as that ultimately would imply that ethnics would firmly be accepted within all spheres of British culture.
Whilst immigrants have been coming to the UK to settle since the 20th Century, there are publications such as The Daily Mail (an extremely conservative newspaper), which subscribes to the theory that the UK will be taken over by the immigrant population and that multiculturalism is destroying the society and this newspaper is surprisingly widely read within the UK.
TV is the medium for the masses, so one would think that this would be used to help stimulate the much needed changing attitudes of the UK culture today, but instead seems to retain the old fashioned belief that we are still living in a mono-cultured society. Maybe there needs to be a shake up within the industry, as society is changing, so too should the TV execs in the major TV stations.
As previously mentioned above, we have been seeing a slow cultural shift in the way companies are now incorporating the black person or ethnic family within advertising campaigns. Whilst they do have the annoying tendency to have the token black guy and mixed raced girl – largely ignoring the fact that black women too make up the black population, companies are beginning to see the value of the ethnic pound. If we were to try and explain this example to the world of TV, it could be assumed that TV execs feel that the viewing percentage from ethnic minorities isn’t high enough to warrant there being more representative proportion within TV. But if that is the case, why did ITV run The Fosters (the first ever Black British show) in 1976, the BBC airing Goodness Gracious Me in 1996; or Channel 4 airing The Desmond’s in 1989 which lasted for 6 seasons? The fact of the matter is that there is an interest in the UK for cultures other than the mainstream and TV has a responsibility to ensure that this interest is met and that the wider population is truly represented.
Now that Black History month is coming to a close, it is important to remember the struggles that Black people as a race had gone through and to also appreciate the hardships that people from other ethnicities have gone through also. However with this knowledge in place, we need to look to the present day and ensure that we all have a place in all aspects in society be it in real life or in fiction.