The Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity has kicked off research to prove the benefits of tax breaks for diverse TV shows and films.
Henry and head of external consultancies Marcus Ryder have been campaigning for such incentives since 2018.
Speaking at an event to mark the second anniversary of the centre, Henry recalled hitting “a big hurdle” when they presented a proposal to reward producers for meeting key diversity targets to Downing Street, the Mayor’s office, the Treasury and with Nicola Sturgeon.
“While politicians paid lip service to supporting the idea, we were told by the Treasury that we didn’t have the evidence that diversity tax breaks worked. We hadn’t modelled it.”
With the Centre firmly established, he said, it is “now in the process of doing the hard academic work of modelling those tax breaks” to demonstrate their potential positive impact.
Birmingham City University has funded nine research projects through the Centre, including work with Channel 4 and the BBC. Subjects covered include the portrayal of Black people in UK documentaries, the use of the term BAME in broadcast media, and how ways for entertainment trade unions to improve support for their members of colour.
“This Centre has proved that change will happen – people are taking notice, broadcasters, newspapers and trade unions are all using our work to improve their policies and increase diversity,” said Henry.
“What I have learnt is that we must turn protest into progress. We need to transform our complaints about the lack of diversity into real tangible results.”
Read Lenny Henry’s speech in full on Marcus Ryder’s blog page