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The BBC Loads Up on Black TV Content – Commissions Several New Multi-Part Series

The BBC Loads Up on Black TV Content - Commissions Several New Multi-Part Series

One can only assume that all of this new programming is part of the BBC’s previously announced diversity push in light of growing and fervent criticism from BAME groups (Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities).

Last year, making a public statement regarding an increase in diversity, BBC Films boss Christine Langan took on the challenge, saying that the lack of diversity within the UK film & TV industry is “increasingly on BBC’s agenda.”

“I can ensure you we are very mindful of it [diversity] and increasingly it is on our agenda,” she said. “We need to reflect modern Britain and I am engaged in that process. The film community needs to create opportunities to pull people through. Commissioning has taken account of it and will continue to do so.”

As an addendum to my post just before this one… in addition to a new documentary on Whitney Houston, the BBC also announced the below projects as part of its upcoming programming lineup.

Alongside acclaimed historian and broadcaster David Olusoga’s “A Black History of Britain” series for BBC Two, the BBC presents what it describes as a major season of new programs that have been commissioned, including: 

– “Black Is the New Black,” BBC Two, a 4-part series made by Iconoclast/Plum Pictures: A landmark documentary series which explores what it means to be black and successful in Britain today. For the first time, a range of well-known – and not so well-known – Black Brits face the camera and tell us what it’s really like to be black and British in every situation from childhood, through school and out into the big white world. Shot by photographer Simon Frederick, this four-part odyssey will pull no punches, telling inspirational stories that will reflect what black Britons have left behind as well as where they are headed.

– “White Boys and Black Heroes – How Black Footballers Transformed Modern Britain,” BBC Two, 60 mins, made by Sugar Films: On 16 May, 1979, an extraordinary game of professional football took place that, if played today, would cause uproar, mass protest and media frenzy. As part of Len Cantello’s testimonial at West Bromwich Albion, an all-white team took on a team comprised solely of black players – “Whites against Blacks.” For the white team, it was nothing more than a lighthearted gimmick, but for the black players it represented so much more. It was a game they had to win. Life-long West Bromwich fan Adrian Chiles journeys across England to uncover the truths, taboos and real meaning behind the remarkable game. It was played during an era when for the first time young white boys had black British heroes, not Muhammad Ali or Jimi Hendrix, but black footballers who talked like them, wore the same clothes and played for the teams they loved. Today, where 30 per cent of English professional football players are black, such a game would never take place. These players are superstars in their own right, with some earning in excess of £200,000 a week: names like Ian Wright, Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole transcend the sport. But how far have we come and how did we get here? Adrian Chiles charts the remarkable highs and lows of the modern black footballer and how they changed not only football but the country itself.

– “Back in Time for Brixton,” BBC Two, 2-part series, made by Wall to Wall Productions: The series takes one 2nd or 3rd generation Black British family through 60 years of cultural and social shifts, charting the story of how African/Caribbean immigration has changed British culture and society. Based in Brixton, the series will chart Black British milestones as the family fast-forwards through six decades that changed the face of Britain. From the arrival of the first families of the Windrush generation, to active recruitment from London Transport and the NHS, to the slow and sometimes questionable appearances of black faces on British TV, to the transformation of Britain’s musical and culinary tastes, “Back in Time for Brixton” offers a new way of celebrating as well as exploring Black British history and its place and influence on British popular culture. Underpinned by data from the Census and a wide variety of national and local archive sources, everything the family does will be guided by the lives and experiences of real British families. Starting with no mobiles, and roughly the same amount of money and possessions that their ancestors brought with them on arrival, the family will spend their first night in one of the actual locations newly arrived immigrants were sent to: the recently restored 1950s Clapham South Deep Level Air Raid Shelter. The family then need to start jobs, find somewhere to live, and the adventure begins as they journey through six decades of history.

– “Roots Reggae, Rasta & Rebellion,” BBC Four, 60 mins: From Kingston, Jamaica, to West London, British rapper, poet and cultural commentator Akala tells the story of a golden period in the island’s musical history – Roots Reggae – through artists like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Max Romeo, including their message of revolution and spirituality that resonated with the world over. By the end of the 1970s, both Rastafari and Roots Reggae were internationally famous, felt in Britain too, simultaneously providing a news service, a history lesson and a connection back to a home for many sons and daughters of Jamaican immigrants. Today, the red, gold and green, the dreadlocks, marijuana and reggae music form part of Britain’s global image. Akala reveals how it all happened and, in the process, traces the roots of a culture in which he grew up, on a personal journey of discovery.

I should mention that Steve McQueen’s currently in development *epic* drama series tracing the black British narrative in London, from 1968 to 2014, is also on the BBC’s agenda. It will be produced by “Game of Thrones” producer Frank Doelger via his Rainmark Films banner, and former BBC Films executive Tracey Scoffield, with a spring 2016 shoot date eyed – which means we likely won’t see it until 2017. A six-episode miniseries, McQueen will of course direct, and will co-write alongside Debbie Tucker Green – a writer and filmmaker whose name and work have been featured on this blog. Most recently, she directed Idris Elba in what was her feature film directing debut, “Second Coming,” which world premiered at the London Film Festival. The series will tell the story of a West Indian community in London, across three decades, beginning at Enoch Powell’s infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968.

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