Senior Business Development Executive at Amazon Prime Video, Sahar Baghery is also a member of MIP Markets’ Diversity Advisory Board. Ahead of MIPCOM 2018’s focus on diversity and inclusion, she shares with us her opinion on the theme, in the latest in our series of diversity influencer interviews.
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? What progress remains to be made?
I feel we are at a turning point. We recognise more easily that diverse voices from diverse backgrounds make innovative storytelling. But what’s interesting is that we’re also starting to recognise that it’s good for business… Audiences want to watch content where they see people like them. Because, at the end of the day, If we want diversity to work, it has to make financial sense…
> #metoo has been the biggest movement in terms of diversity this past year. How has it impacted the TV industry in particular?
The #MeToo movement has directed a glaring spotlight on the media and entertainment industries. That’s sent a message. Many women now seem to feel like the doors are opening, to either higher leadership positions or female-driven TV projects. It will take longer than we think, and longer than we want, but I think change now is inevitable.
> At MIPCOM 2017, Sir Lenny Henry suggested tax breaks for diverse programming were a good way forward. Do you agree?
I believe new tax breaks are needed to improve diversity in the TV industry, in front of and behind the camera. For now, under-representation of minorities on screen creates a cultural disconnection between the people who make programmes, and the many millions who watch them.
> Are all sectors of diversity progressing at a similar rate, or are some doing less well?
There is a whole world of audiences who want to see everything on their screen. From complex LGBT issues to more black female leads, we want entertainment that is as diverse as the world we live in. And while TV broadcasters are consciously diversifying their output, online players have already been quick to tap into these new, previously ignored markets, developing stories that now force to diversify by competition.
> How diverse do you hope TV will be by 2020? What would it take to get there?
Times have changed, and things are moving in the right direction both on our screens and behind the scenes. But mountains aren’t moved overnight. Or over the course of a year for that matter!