The Colour of Diversity: A Longitudinal Analysis of BFI Diversity Standards Data and Racial Inequality in the UK Film Industry

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: UCL Institute for Advanced Studies


The growth of the cultural and creative industries (CCIs) in the past thirty years has coincided with an increase of research on the deep inequality in the sector. This has included studies on how ethnic minority people are involved in, represented by and experience the CCIs. What is missing from existing research is a close-up analysis, over time, of how diversity policy that has attempted to tackle such inequalities, is constructed and implemented and with what results. The Colour of Diversity project, through close collaboration with the UK's lead body for film culture, the British Film Institute (BFI), as well as the Cabinet Office's Race Disparity Unit and the Guardian newspaper, will deliver an ambitious, timely and impactful academic research-led programme examining the links between race inequality, diversity and cultural policy. As part of the collaborative project, a large range of cultural practitioners, audiences and communities will be invited to participate in research forums, seminars and round-table events designed to bring industry stakeholders, cultural workers and communities together to exchange knowledge about diversity and inclusion in the CCIs.

The Colour of Diversity focuses on the UK screen sector where racial inequality remains a major policy challenge. Diversity and inclusion are increasingly on the screen industries' policy agenda (DCMS, 2012; BFI, 2012; BFI, 2018, BAFTA, 2020). However, despite nearly three decades of policy initiatives, inequalities in terms of workforce demographic and on-screen representations of BAME communities remain a significant social problem. The implications of the long-standing under-representation suggests that BAME communities experience multi-dimensional inequalities and forms of discrimination, an example of which can be found in the film sector. The issue pertains to a lack of employment, differential audiences and problematic representations. The significance of the problem is that the field of cultural production plays a critical role in shaping everyday society and culture, how communities see themselves and are seen by others. The field of cultural production and representation, therefore, has real social effects.

The empirical basis of the research analysis will be the BFI's policy initiative, Diversity Standards, a major policy initiative that the flagship cultural organisation launched in 2016. Diversity Standards is designed to tackle prevailing sector inequalities and boost racial diversity and inclusion across its Film Fund-supported productions between 2016 and 2022. As well as being the first empirical study of the BFI Diversity Standards data, to which the research team will have exclusive access, this will be the first sustained academic analysis and evaluation of the construction and development of cultural diversity policy in the UK. A key objective of the study is to analyse the mechanisms of cultural policy that seeks to tackle inequalities. This will increase knowledge about how the CCIs construct diversity initiatives, with the aim to support other industry stakeholders in implementing effective and informed policy strategies that will have real effects in tackling structural racial inequalities. The project examines how diversity policy links to a range of interdependent intersections and contexts, as well as foregrounding the significance of direct testimony and narratives of those who are targeted by such diversity policies. Through a robust programme of research that will including interviews, workshops, critical discourse analysis and textual analysis, The Colour of Diversity will foreground the significance of the Arts and Humanities for tackling social concerns such as social mobility and diversity. A principal research aim is to demonstrate the contribution of Screen Studies to sociological understandings of race and ethnicity and develop a theoretical interrogation of diversity policy as a critical form of social policy.


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