Why diversity?

After ‘Why democracy’ and ‘Why poverty’, I think that it would only be natural for a series titled ‘Why diversity?’ to be made by the EBU, examining diversity in Europe, especially in the Media. I talked about diversity programming with Erik Hogenboom, chief editor at the Diversity Department of the Dutch public broadcaster NTR, who coordinates weekly TV programmes with a focus on diversity. He is also the executive producer of the international coproduction City Folk by the EBU-Intercultural Diversity Group, featuring portraits of ordinary people of different ethnic backgrounds and as such reflecting the intercultural melting pots of the big cities around the world. He was also Coordinator of the Jury Group for the Prix Europa TV IRIS category.

Patience, Patience You'll Go To Paradise! by Hadja Lahbib (Belgium, 2014, 85 min.)

‘How do European societies cope with growing ethnic and religious diversity?
How will Fortress Europe tackle the increasing flow of desperate refugees? How do we deal with a growing Muslim population in a basically profane society? As a consequence, there is an increasing responsibility of (public) broadcasters, filmmakers and reporters to deal with diversity issues in their stories.’
What are diversity programmes? What does a diversity chief editor do?
Diversity programmes are programmes that somehow tackle issues related to cultural diversity in European societies. Diversity is of course a rather broad definition: it concerns gender, dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. In TV IRIS we focus on the dimension of race and ethnicity. So, diversity programmes in this dimension are about all issues related to the fact that European societies are becoming more and more multicultural/diverse. Concrete issues are:  migration issues; refugees; illegality; fortress Europe; history of migration; position of minorities; ethnic conflicts; racism/anti-racism; position of Roma people; Islam in Europe; second and third generation of migrants; integration of minorities; regional minorities; coexistence and/or clashes of religions, etc. Programmes that mainly focus on such themes can be defined as ‘diversity programmes’.
A ‘diversity chief editor’ task is to commission these kind of programmes and bring them on TV (or radio and Internet of course). To find new, interesting and relevant subjects related to diversity and find programme-makers to make these programmes, judge them and finally schedule them on TV, or any other medium.

Another task can be to try to make the personnel of media institutions more diverse, by hiring and/or employing journalists, technical staff, producers, etc. of a different ethnic/cultural background.

Another task can be to organise special events to stimulate diversity (in programming and personnel) in the media (e.g. the Innoversity Show that we are currently organising for April 2016).

Why do we need diversity programmes in public broadcasters in 2015?
The increasing diversity in Europe creates frictions, tensions, conflicts (racism, discrimination, resistance against mosques, unemployment in young people of a different ethnic background). Diversity programmes can contribute to knowledge and insight about different values and cultures and may encourage tolerance and understanding. So, as long as diversity is not yet an accepted value, special diversity programmes are important to promote the benefits of diversity.

What are the opportunities for diversity programme funding? Are there special budgets for that? Which broadcasters commission diversity programmes?
At NTR we have had (for the past 20 years) a special budget for diversity (and time slots on day time in the weekend). After 1 January 2016, we lose this special budget and will have to fight for money for each new projects. Some broadcasters in Europe have special diversity departments and budgets, e.g. HRT-Croatia, WDR-Germany, the BBC.

Where should producers look for money?
Difficult question. It depends very much on the local/national situation. In the Netherlands, freelance producers can apply for money to special funds, e.g. to produce an expensive documentary or series. But these are mostly general media funds, not special ones for diversity.

How was the experience of this year’s Prix Europa? Can you tell us something about the winning film?
I think we had a great TV IRIS this year. A large Jury group and a mosaic of interesting diversity programmes. In general, it is quite amazing that TV IRIS has been running successfully for so many years, with constant input of entries from all over Europe.
The film “Patience Patience, you’ll go to Paradise” is a really great winner. The situation of older migrant women is an important diversity theme, and this film is great because of its humoristic tone. It shows that people can free themselves of restraints even when they are older. It also provides insight into the world and thoughts of elderly migrant women.

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