The BBC and Netflix have forged a five-year partnership to develop and fund “ambitious and elevated” British dramas from disabled writers.
The broadcasters are inviting pitches from UK producers for dramas created or co-created by writers who identify as deaf, disabled and/or neurodivergent.
These can “draw imaginatively on any genre, precinct or world” and should “challenge the limits that the industry might unconsciously put on disability”. The broadcasters said they wanted to increase representation of disabled talent both on- and off-screen, widen the range of stories produced and empower disabled writer and creatives to write the stories they want to tell.
The initiative follows His Dark Materials writer Jack Thorne’s impassioned MacTaggart speech at the Edinburgh festival, in which he said the industry had “utterly and totally failed disabled people” and rarely commissioned drama from disabled writers or with disabled casts.
Thorne also highlighted that his disability-themed dramas, including BBC3’s Don’t Take My Baby, were largely funded by factual departments on lower budgets than most dramas. The BBC and Netflix said the partnership is designed to “firmly place the shows alongside our most talked-about and original dramas already being developed”.
The BBC will handle all pitches and submissions. The two broadcasters are drawing up a creative brief and outline of the processes for producers and will host a webinar.
The A Word creator Peter Bowker recently assembled a team of disabled writers for the BBC1 drama’s upcoming 6 x 30-minute spin-off series Ralph and Katie, comprising Amy Trigg, Annalisa Dinnella, Genevieve Barr, Tom Wentworth and Lizzie Watson.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 head of content Ian Katz this week pledged to commission at least one drama from a disabled writer this year.
Thorne welcomed the announcements, tweeting: "The commitments that C4, the BBC and Netflix have made this week are utterly overwhelming. Production companies will, from today, be scouring for disabled artists. They'll find there is so much talent. Lots to do but what an amazing start."