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Screen industry professionals reveal how discrimination held back their careers

Screen industry professionals reveal how discrimination held back their careers

TV presenter Sideman and Channel 4 commissioning editor Fozia Khan are among 11 screen industry professionals to appear in short films describing how discrimination held them back in their careers.

The eleven interviewees describe how their race, ethnicity, gender, social class, disability or regionality put them at a disadvantage, and explore the changes needed to make their industries more inclusive.  

Jamaican-born Sideman, also known as David Whitely, says he feels he would have gone further in his career if he had a ‘London’ accent, and that he feels his race influences the work he is picked for. He quit his radio job presenting BBC1 Xtra last year after the N-word was used in a TV news broadcast. More than 18,000 complaints were made and BBC director general Tony Hall apologised. 

Fozia Khan speaks of feeling shame as a working-class immigrant early in her career, and the challenges of juggling work and childcare.  

We wanted those with lived-experience of discrimination to speak in their own words.

Associate Professor Beth Johnson, School of Media and Communication

Other interviewees include Lisa Holdsworth, Emmerdale and All Creatures Great & Small screenwriter and Chair of the Writers’ Guild, who says she’s underestimated because of her northern accent.

And games writer Leah Magoye, who is black and a single mother, says her industry does not expect her and is not made for her.

The contributors describe the changes needed to ensure that the screen industries are open to all, and inclusive of all, and discuss the actions needed to level up on and off screen. 

The film series, called Industry Voices, has been produced by the Screen Industries Growth Network (SIGN) and film production company Candour, based in Leeds.

Executive producer for SIGN, Beth Johnson, Associate Professor in Film and Media in the University's School of Media and Communication, said the aim of the project was to raise awareness of the multiple barriers faced by people working in the industry.

She said: “We wanted those with lived-experience of discrimination to speak in their own words, to show the human impacts of inequality and bring the importance of intersectional understandings of their working and personal lives to the surface.  

“Unless we listen to those who are held back, it will be impossible for the screen sectors to meaningfully move toward inclusion, and change is needed urgently. There is a will to change, and we hope that these films will lead to a greater recognition of what and how that can happen.  

“Our contributors are at the heart of the Industry Voices series, and their strength in sharing their stories on camera blew us away. The collaboration between Candour and SIGN has been important, and we worked with a diverse team and a shared ethic to ensure that our contributors were respected, heard and ultimately, able to control their own stories.

“We hope that the films will play a part in influencing national policy. We aim to link up with taskforces who are fighting for a more equal and inclusive sector.”

The work will feature in a forthcoming academic paper By Dr Johnson on inequalities in the screen industries, which will evaluate its impact. 

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