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Saturday 21 September 2019

Adrian Lester calls for tax break to boost TV and film diversity

Dame Emma Thompson, Jodie Whittaker and Thandie Newton are among the stars who have signed a petition.

Adrian Lester (Matt Crossick/PA)
Adrian Lester (Matt Crossick/PA)

By Sherna Noah and Laura Harding, Press Association

TV star Adrian Lester has called on the Government to take a “big step” to boost diversity behind the camera.

He and Sir Lenny Henry are preparing to deliver a letter, signed by a string of stars, to 10 Downing Street, calling for tax breaks to effect change.

Trauma actor Lester told the Press Association: “After years of making speeches and talking about this problem we haven’t really made any progress.

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Sir Lenny Henry (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

“If we can get more representation behind the camera, if we can reflect the country as it is, it changes the stories that we tell and the way we see ourselves.”

He said the BBC still does not “reflect the country” and that change at the broadcaster is too slow.

The document’s signatories include Dame Emma Thompson, Jodie Whittaker, Thandie Newton, David Oyelowo and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

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Thandie Newton (Ian West/PA)

They are calling for tax breaks to increase the representation of women, BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) and disabled people working behind the camera.

Lester said it is time to do more than talk about the issue.

“We thought that if we can talk about it and be eloquent about it maybe the problem will shift and disappear. The problem isn’t disappearing.”

Training schemes and other initiatives “have only shifted things a tiny percent. A big step needs to be taken,” he said.

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Michaela Coel (Yui Mok/PA)

The letter calls for the immediate introduction of Representation Tax Relief to increase diversity in the industry.

It says the likes of Amma Asante, Sally Wainwright, Gurinder Chadha, Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen, Sharon Horgan, and Michaela Coel had written and directed “some of the most important British films and television”.

“They enrich the creativity of the UK and add to our cultural heritage, but unfortunately they continue to be the exception rather than the rule.”

It adds: “Diversity in  important sections of the UK film and television industry is in crisis.”

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Jodie Whittaker has signed the letter (Matt Crossick/PA)

The letter says that only 2% of UK television is made by directors of a BAME background.

“Over the last decade women made up only 13.6% of working film directors in the UK despite the fact they make up the majority of film students.” it says.

“Only 0.3% of the total UK film workforce and just 4.5% of the television workforce are disabled, well short of the 18% in the population who consider themselves disabled.

“These numbers are shocking. Tax relief is a tried and tested mechanism to increase employment and activity in the UK film industry.”

The letter says UK film and television productions should be eligible for tax relief if they meet three out of four possible criteria – that the director, writer and/or director of photography is a woman and/or disabled and/or from a BAME background; or if 50% of staff behind the camera are female, or 14% are BAME staff, or 18% disabled staff.

It adds: “Complaints over the lack of diversity in the creative industries have seen things slowly begin to change, but the time has come for more substantive measures, and real change needs to be underwritten by law.”

The group will deliver the letter to 10 Downing Street at 2pm.

PA Media

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