The actor, Lenny Henry said streaming services such as Netflix are better than terrestrial channels at portraying Britain’s ethnic diversity.
It’s been the most talked-about show of the Christmas season, with black performers cast in leading roles in Regency-era England.
Now Bridgerton, the blockbuster period drama on Netflix, could find itself at the epicentre of a politically charged controversy about diversity and the fate of television.
Sir Lenny Henry has warned that the BBC and other terrestrial broadcasters risk losing black and Asian viewers to on-demand streaming services because they feel such services do a better job at portraying their lives.
The Comic Relief co-founder wrote that if British broadcasters didn’t tackle the diversity grey rhino now, they ran the risk of losing large parts of their audience permanently.
He said that one in five Britons would be from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background by 2031 and he added that investigation had shown this segment of society was watching on-demand streaming services more than others as they felt that shows do a better job at portraying their lives than terrestrial broadcasters such as The BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV.
The actor made the call for diversity in all facets of TV, on-screen and behind the camera, in his new book, ‘Access All Areas: The Diversity Manifesto for TV and Beyond’, which was co-written by Marcus Ryder, a media diversity specialist, and will be released on Thursday by Faber.
Recent examples of the streaming service Netflix has succeeded in casting a more eclectic range of actors than broadcasters such as ITV can be seen in its hit show Bridgerton, which is set in early 19th century London and held colour-blind casting calls.
The period drama, which was based on Julia Quinn’s best selling novels, follows the romance between Daphne Bridgerton, played by Phoebe Dynevor and Simon Basset played by Regé-Jean Page, a British-Zimbabwean performer and has been tipped to become the next Downton Abbey after it enjoyed a thriving takeoff on the streaming site this Christmas.
In the show King George III’s wife Queen Charlotte is black, played by British actress Golda Rosheuvel, 49, with Ms Quinn, the author, backing the colour conscious casting and adding that numerous historians believe Queen Charlotte had some African background.
Sir Lenny Henry appeared to take a swipe at the lack of diversity on ITV’s hit show Downton Abbey, which had a predominantly white cast, noting in his book that the nominee list at the Royal Television Society’s annual awards was like a Downton Abbey Christmas special.
If people are talented and funny enough they will get the breaks wherever they come from and whatever colour they are. Lenny Henry is a Sir, so he’s done rather well for himself – the same applies to all sportsmen and women.
However, people should be given the same education and opportunities to flourish and nobody should be given a position purely based on the colour of their skin, religion or who they’re related to.
If someone has the education, the work ethic and the personality, then they should be given the same opportunities as the next person, but is Sir Lenny Henry just trying to whip up conflict? And with his triumphant career, he doesn’t need to play the race card.
Perhaps he should just keep his mouth closed, after all, he’s done well for himself, so why ruffle feathers? And he’s been stealing a living for decades – I’ve had more comic toothaches.