BFI Systemic Racism Admission Sparks Renewed Calls For Independent Complaints Body

EXCLUSIVE: Marcus Ryder, a figurehead for the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, has renewed his call for an industry-wide anti-racism body following the British Film Institute’s admission that it mishandled a discrimination complaint.

Ryder revealed that high-level industry talks took place earlier this year over establishing an independent arbiter for racism complaints. Ofcom, the UK media regulator, chaired a meeting about the proposal in January, inviting major UK broadcasters and entertainment trade unions, including Bectu.

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Ryder said the talks had been constructive and there was little objection to the principle of a complaints body, but no formal proposals are currently under consideration. Ofcom said a range of views were shared, but it was not within its remit to impose an anti-racism body on the industry. Instead, Ofcom said it will continue to encourage dialogue on the issue.

The talks came before a Film and TV Charity survey of 2,000 screen industry professionals found that nearly a quarter of people of color said they had experienced racial harassment. A third of those who faced discrimination said they considered leaving the industry.

Deadline revealed on Monday that the BFI admitted to Faisal A Qureshi, an Associate Producer on Four Lions and Leaving Neverland, that it was systemically racist. The organization apologized to the filmmaker for its response to his allegation that he suffered racially insensitive behavior during a BFI Network meeting in 2019. The BFI has vowed to update its complaints procedures and continue with anti-racism training.

Ryder said it was “brave” and “wonderful” that Qureshi held the BFI to account and went public with his story. He added: “It shouldn’t require bravery if you have been a victim. Something is wrong if it requires bravery… We’ve got to find a way so that people like Faisal can report this without having to be brave. Until then, we are reliant on people being willing to risk their careers. That’s not the way a healthy industry runs.”

Bectu, which originally proposed the idea of an anti-racism body, said: “The concerns raised in this [BFI] report point to why we need an independent anti-racist reporting body. We frequently hear reports that industry workers feel discriminated against and fear reporting it will ‘damage’ their careers. An independent body that creatives can put their trust in, that will provide data and signpost on complaints, is needed now more than ever.”

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