OneMIP - The TV industry’s largest content showcase

6 October 2022

Diversity & Inclusion starts with Commitment from the Top

MIPCOM CANNES is firmly established as a landmark event in the TV industry’s calendar for deal-making, project financing, networking and sharing insights. At the same time, it has also become a key opportunity for the global content community to assess its progress on Diversity & Inclusion – both in front of the camera and behind.

By Andy Fry

In addition to a vein of D&I discussions that run through the event’s conference programme, MIPCOM CANNES hosts the Diversify TV Awards, now entering its sixth year. Dedicated to championing and promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I) in all its forms across the international TV industry, the Awards shine a spotlight on authentic, engaging and ground-breaking programming from both new and established voices.

Launching this year’s Awards programme, Lucy Smith, director of MIPCOM, underlined the commitment of both MIPCOM Cannes organiser RX and the event itself to promoting D&I: “Tackling diversity and inclusion has never been about box ticking for us. It’s about elevating those making an impact already, to then inspire others across our global industry.”

The 191 submissions this year all have had a positive impact in their particular field of D&I endeavour. Areas covered include Race & Ethnicity, Disability, LGBTQIA+ and Kids programming– with categories designed to celebrate work across scripted, and non-scripted. New this year is a Behind The Scenes Impact Award, designed to recognise a person or team “whose influence, actions, determination and/or vision stands as an inspiration to all TV creators and audiences worldwide”.

It’s important, of course, to acknowledge that Awards events can only provide a snapshot of how well the industry is progressing on D&I. The real graft comes every day at work, where every top-down decision, every team meeting and every individual engagement can have an impact on an organisation’s ability to hit D&I targets.

Lucy Smith, MIPCOM Director

This point is well-articulated by Femi Oke, a leading international broadcaster who was recently unveiled as the new host of Al Jazeera English’s hit social media show The Stream. Oke, who is presenting this year’s MIPCOM CANNES Diversify TV Award, says: “You don’t accidentally become an organisation or programme that is diverse. It's a deliberate thing. It’s carefully thought through and not often celebrated or recognised, except by the audience. I do it every day – I talk to my team every time the show isn’t quite how we want it to look because that is very important. It’s an exercise we do every day. It is not effortless –  it is work, but it’s important and worthwhile.”

 

For Oke, one of the attractions of the Awards is realising that she is not alone in driving the D&I agenda forward. “I will come away from the Awards even more buoyed, knowing that others are doing the same thing, learning about how they are doing it and what I can learn from them, what I can do to make their efforts even stronger.”

Femi Oke. Photo: Daniel Ming

Femi Oke. Photo: Daniel Ming

In addition to the 30 or so leading industry executives who act as jurors on the Awards, MIPCOM is fortunate to have several leading industry organisations on boards as sponsors. These include presenting partners A+E Networks and Netflix, and award partners Telefilm Canada and All3Media International.

A+E Networks has been on board since the start and, under president and chairman Paul Buccieri, has established a reputation for being one of the industry’s leaders in terms of establishing a genuinely D&I-facing culture. So for this latest blog, we spoke to Mark Garner, executive vice-president, global sales and business development at A+E Networks; and Liz Soriano, senior vice-president, head of programming, A+E Networks; about what it takes for a large scale enterprise to embed D&I in its ethos.

 

How far down the road is A+E on its D&I journey?

Liz Soriano: When you look at what A+E has been doing over the last couple of years, you realise that D&I is now a vein running through all aspects of the company from content to learning and development to community. The company approaches D&I holistically, so that it authentically touches everything our company and brands are about.

Mark Garner: I think we’ve made a lot of progress on our D&I journey. It’s part of our DNA now. It’s in our programming, how we talk to one another. It’s so embedded in our culture that the company has made it mandatory for everyone to have D&I as part of our goals and incentives. We’re all accountable to each other and ourselves.

How do you create an organisation that is authentically diverse and inclusive – at scale?

LS: It starts with commitment from the top. Paul Buccieri has been incredible at working with employees to help them find their way. For example, there are company-wide town halls where cultural conversations regularly take place openly and professionally. I also think recruitment is important. You have to be relentless because it’s not easy – but our experience proves you can get there.

MG: I agree with Liz that it starts with leadership. Paul made D&I a core goal when he stepped into his role. Those values have been inculcated into how we treat one another, how we represent A&E in the media, our content iterations, sourcing vendors…everything.

How well does A+E do, in terms of enabling diverse voices to flourish within the firm?

MG: Throughout this journey of D&I, we’ve worked hard to ensure people can find their voice. It’s true that many people in the industry haven't had a chance to express their authentic self, to present the lens they see things through. But A+E enables people to bring to work the things they are concerned about. I can think of countless examples of wonderful colleagues expressing new points of view that ultimately influence our company and content. I think that’s one reason why we have such a good record as a company in retaining people. Our churn rate is low – partly because people have a voice.

LS: I think everyone understands there is an open invitation at all levels for people to bring what they think is important. We’ve seen an incredible growth in community groups, employer resources and a proliferation of short-form content focused on diverse stories. We now have a number of rising-star employees who have found a platform to express themselves, which I find inspiring and motivating.

Femi Oke. Photo: Daniel Ming

Femi Oke. Photo: Daniel Ming

Is it harder to be a D&I-first organisation in tough times like these, when people become frustrated, scared and polarised?

MG: Everything that is happening around us right now is relevant and requires our attention. But I think the answer to the challenging situation we are facing is to take pride in being a community that values co-operation and collaboration. Everything that is happening right now impacts people differently and that means we need to be appreciative of those differences and how we prioritise.

LS: I think the global nature of A&E has allowed us to take an honest look at the economic. political and social challenges we’re facing. We need not to shy away and apply what we’ve learned in recent years.

Do any issues strike you as being particularly intractable?

MG: Nothing is intractable. What we have done in diversity and inclusion has been phenomenal. If there’s one area we’re still trying to get our heads around, it’s what equity means for everyone (using the DEI formulation as opposed to D&I). Equity means different things to different individuals, so that is still a journey for us all.

 

Can you see business benefits from your D&I focus?

MG: Unequivocally yes. If you look at the product we put on screen, you can see how it has a different look and feel but is still representative of our classic brands. If you apply the lens of D&I to our vendors, recruitment, programming etc, you can see that it is enabling us to remain a best-in-class business in a competitive market.

LG: We’re not behind by any means. Other companies take notice of our efforts to develop a depth and breadth of ideas and diversity of thought. Our approach makes us different from other companies.

So why are the MIPCOM CANNES Diversify TV Awards important?

LS: Anything that can help amplify incredible work is of real value. There are lots of unknown stories that can't break through on general entertainment platforms, so it’s important to have an awards programme that can help promote and elevate great content.

MG: Award programmes like this are incredibly important to showcase and highlight talent and storytelling around the world. Without awards, it’s difficult to gain visibility… to get people to understand the extraordinary talent and stories out there. I’d like to think awards help people understand who we are collectively, illustrating that the gaps aren't always as big as we might suppose.

Mark, you are also a judge on this year’s Awards. What will you be looking for from the entries in your category?

MG: I’m looking for a unique story, a story well told. For me the great Diversify TV Awards entry needs to illuminate and entertain at the same time. I watched several across one weekend in the run up to MIPCOM CANNES and was sucked into incredible stories that I would never come across in my usual journey around the streaming platforms with my EPG. I don't look for anything in particular, because I want to be as open as possible to what I am experiencing.  But I do look for the unexpected, something that makes me walk away and say ‘Wow!’

 

The MIPCOM CANNES Diversify TV Excellence Awards Catagories

Representation of Race and Ethnicity

Representation of Disability

Representation of LGBTQIA+

Representation of Diversity in Kids Programming

Behind The Scenes Impact Award

Premio MIP Cancun

For more information and insights into the MIPCOM CANNES Diversify TV Awards, check out the MIPCOM CANNES Preview Magazine.

About the author

ANDY FRY

Andy Fry is a freelance journalist who contributes regularly to leading TV and marketing trade magazines - MIP Daily News, Lions Magazine, Location International, Broadcast International, Worldscreen, Sport Business, C21, TBI, DTVE and many more.

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