Channel 4’s Black To Front Organisers On Responding To London Hughes Criticism: “We Were United Behind A Clear Vision” – Deadline

By Max Goldbart
International TV Editor
The organizers of Channel 4’s Black to Front initiative have spotlighted the challenge of forging a project that attracted public criticism from the likes of comedian London Hughes.
C4 Commissioning Editor Vivienne Molokwu, who oversaw the project with Shaminder Nahal and Kelly Webb-Lamb, said she understood some may have thought the initiative was “a gimmick” but the organizers were “united behind a clear vision.”
To Catch A D*ck star Hughes slammed the day of Black programming as “insulting” and “performative tokenism” in a set of tweets just prior to its September delivery, before subsequently saying she had communicated her concerns to C4 commissioners.

Speaking on a C4 Inclusion Festival panel, Molokwu said: “By its very nature you can see how easily people would think this was a gimmick and to ignore that would be insanity. It would have been tokenistic if it was only the day but the day was never the end. We had a united vision of what we wanted to achieve and the challenge was hearing those voices who wanted us to change direction and weighing up whether to fight that particular fight.”

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Departing Deputy Head of Programmes Webb-Lamb, who is soon to leave C4 but stayed on to help with the project, said: “If we’d been too worried about the day being perfect we wouldn’t have taken the leap.”
C4 has been clear that it intends the initiative, which featured prominent Black talent such as Mo Gilligan and AJ Odudu in a wealth of new and rebooted programming, to be a catalyst for change.
Chief content officer Ian Katz unveiled yesterday a set of initiatives that will see the broadcaster triple spend on indies run by ethnically diverse people to around £22M ($29.6M) by 2023, as C4 becomes the first broadcaster to ringfence money for ethnically-diverse-led production companies.
Webb-Lamb added that that the project wasn’t just about practical considerations” but also “challenging tropes and changing mindsets about how we as an industry think about people who work in the industry.”
“The day was better for London Hughes’ criticism” and C4 responded constructively, according to Sir Lenny Henry Centre For Media Diversity Head of External Consultancies Marcus Ryder, who generated headlines recently after reports said BBC Director General Tim Davie had vetoed his appointment to a senior BBC News role. He met with Davie last week to discuss his concerns.

C4 sought help from the Sir Lenny Henry Centre on the initiative and Ryder said Katz initially said to him: “If you think this is not a good idea, then we’ll drop it.”
Ryder called out a different unnamed UK broadcaster for failing to respond to criticism in this way after this broadcaster received an open letter concerning a diversity issue but declined to respond.
Pat Younge, a former BBC Chief Creative Officer, said in today’s panel: “I was nervous when I first heard about Black to Front as I’ve done plenty of ‘seasons’ and ‘holidays’ in the past and in 10 years’ time you’re still playing the same game. But for me, the channel was serious. I was moved.”
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