Bunmi Akintonwa has worked in the International TV Industry for over 20 years. She is the head of the Little Black Book Company, founder  of  the UNTAPPED Network, and member of MIP Markets’ Diversity Advisory Board. Today, ahead of MIPCOM 2018’s renewed focus on diversity and inclusion, she shares her views on the subject with MIPBlog.


MIPBlog: This will be the third consecutive year since 2016 that MIPCOM focuses on diversity in entertainment. What progress do you feel has been made since then?

Bunmi Akintonwa: In 2016  Diversity  and Inclusion in the Global Entertainment  industry was a conversation fuelled by  moral imperative and  instinctual business sense, but  we struggled to find enough valid data  to  back commercial arguments. Since  2016,  discussion has given way to  decisive, successful, action and positive, measured results. Diversity and  Inclusion are no longer  considered redundant buzz words, but  an essential  part of a basic business and marketing plan. In short, Diversity and Inclusion leads  to bigger  audiences  and  more  revenue-  and this  is  reflected in the  way  that  this  is a now  an important part  of the MIPCOM 2018 offer. Naming young, dynamic creator, actor & producer Issa Rae  as Personality of the Year  clearly underlines this message. A  panel on development  amplifies this, while more  entries to  the DiversifyTV awards  demonstrates  the  effectiveness of the  message.

> What progress remains to be made?

We  still need  less tokenism and more representation,  particularly behind the cameras. More directors, more  writers  and more  executives  who understand  these untold  stories. There are new  voices, and those that that  were  previously  silenced –  and they  need  encouragement to stand up,  speak out  again and be noticed.  There is  a lot more scope for imaginative co-productions, for instance –  some countries  have incredible stories.  but  can’t quite find the budgets to tell them.  MIPCOM is a great  forum for this. The  focus on development  this  year is a very welcome one.


 > #metoo has been the biggest movement in terms of diversity this past year. How has it impacted the TV industry in particular?

We’re definitely seeing a lot stronger of roles for real women in TV.   In turn, movie  actors have  realized  that  TV  is  a great  way   for  them to break away  from roles they’re tired of playing. Hopefully  writers no longer feel compelled   to use character  descriptions like  ‘sexy, young, blonde  girl’   when the  word ‘woman’  would  suffice!   And of course, women (and men) no longer  have to have shut up and put up any more. All  of this will  eventually result in better  working conditions, attracting more people  to the industry and  ultimately, more  variety on the  screen.


> At MIPCOM 2017, Sir Lenny Henry suggested tax breaks for diverse programming were a good way forward. Do you agree?

Yes,  I  do  –  companies  often fail  to meet  quotas/mandates   and  a financial  incentive to work a little  harder can only  help. It’s  encouraging to see the  work  that  bodies like the  BFI  are doing to improve  diversity.


> Are all sectors of diversity progressing at a similar rate, or are some doing less well?

We definitely need  to  work  harder  with disability.  Again we need  more creatives  to tell the  stories  and more  execs  to guide them.  At  MIPCOM,  now that  we have our eyes open and we’re looking, we see that  these execs  are missing.


 > How diverse do you hope TV will be by 2020? What would it take to get there?

Today, platforms and distribution methods are so sophisticated that we can hit global or, global niche audiences instantly. Leaving anyone out is therefore missing a potential revenue source. By 2020, I hope  that TV content  financiers (commissioners, investors, sponsors etc) have realised  this, and insist that content must be made for an audience that reflects the world we live in! It’s  taken us so long to work this out – but it’s really the only way that makes sense. I hope we also find a more effective way to find and promote excellent  talent and content. I don’t think we’ll be there by 2020 –  but I think it will at least be  on everyone’s agenda.


About Author

As Head of Social Media for Reed MIDEM, James Martin oversees social strategy and deployment for B2B events MIPTV and MIPCOM, Midem (music industry) and MIPIM & MAPIC (real estate & retail). He is based in Reed MIDEM's Paris office.

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