Channel 4 is inviting disabled-led indies to pitch for a major unscripted series that aims to have an impact on the national conversation on disability equivalent to It’s a Sin's role in increased AIDS testing.
Last week, the broadcaster has issued a closed brief to indies either led by a disabled head or developed by a team with senior disabled creatives who would ultimately work on the show, to “radically change the conversation about disability” and show disabled peole in ways they have never been seen on TV before.
The successful indie will have to commit to at least 20% of off-screen talent on the show being disabled, in line with the national average.
C4’s brief describes a high-impact unscripted show of any form that “blow apart” and subvert offensive stereotypes, tropes, assumptions and over-simplifications about what it means to be disabled today in the UK.
C4 is looking for peak-time ideas for early 2023 in any genre other than sport, which is already represented via its Paralympics coverage and spin-off programming.
The broadcaster has an ongoing commitment to disability representation across its output, including The Last Leg and talent such as Rosie Jones, Bryony Mae Williams and Billy Monger.
As well as Red Production Company’s It’s a Sin, it urged indies to think of the influence that CPL Productions’ factual series Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds had on elderly care and, further back, Brookside’s impact on lesbian representation.
“Where are the disabled yummy mumies outdoing each other on the school run, the disabled business leaders making millions or the disloyal and demanding disabled people?” the 'disability disruption' brief asks.
It urged indies to think about how to approach what it describes as “two of disability’s biggest secrets”. Namely, that it is up to society to fix the physical, attitudinal and/or cultural barriers towards disabled people rather than asking them to fix themselves; and the ‘disability paradox’ by which disabled people with a high quality of life are thought by others to be miserable or struggling.
“A big, noisy commission which brings either or both of these concepts to life in smart and arresting ways will go a long way to fulfilling this brief of radically changing the national conversation around disability,” the brief states.
As detailed in its disability guidance to producers, C4 wants ideas that avoid or challenge damaging stereotypes of disabled people as ‘fakers’, ‘freaks’, ‘villains’, ‘undesirables’ or ‘unstoppables’ and steer clear of ‘inspiration porn’ narratives, or one-dimensional approaches of tragedy, triumph, miraculous healing or awareness-raising.
Written treatments should be submitted to genre teams by 21 March, with C4 contacting those who have made its shortlist on 4 April.
Final pitches will take place in the week beginning 2 May, with the commission awarded and notified a fortnight later.
Genre heads and C4 creative diversity and disability lead Ally Castle are leading the process for C4.
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