Diversify TV is the brainchild of David Cornwall, Liliane Da Cruz, Nick Smith and Bunmi Akintonwa. In early 2015 David suggested to that they host some ‘diversity drinks’ at the global content market MIPTV.
The idea was for some informal drinks to help forge connections between those who were passionate about increasing diversity, and improving representation, in the Television industry. David designed the invite on the right and they emailed it out to their contacts.
They had no idea what the turnout would be like, due to many other events being scheduled at the same time. However they were pleased that over 20 people attended and many new connections and friendships were born. It was here that they met Bunmi and Liliane.
Whilst the consensus was that the drinks were a success and should be repeated at MIPCOM in October, Bunmi believed they could, and should, aim to do more. She suggested hosting a short talk from a high profile executive of colour at the next event. That’s where Liliane’s intimate knowledge of Cannes and relationships with local businesses came in in to play. A talk wouldn’t be possible at the pub where the first drinks event were held. Liliane secured a venue that offered exclusive use, in a much more central location.
David secured Sean Cohan, EVP International, A+E Networks and Michael Armstrong, EVP International Viacom to give a short talk and take part in a Q&A. Tonje Bakang, who attended our first event, offered, via his company Afrostream, to sponsor the event, and so drinks and canapes were provided to all attendees. All of this meant it was not just the invite that became a lot more professional, the whole event went up a notch.
With the venue able to hold between 60 – 80 people, it could comfortably accommodate more than double the amount of people that attended the first event. However the event proved extremely popular and it led to attendees spilling out on to the street outside. The interest in the event convinced David, Nick, Bunmi and Liliane of the need to formalise the group and make plans to take activities to the next level.
After many emails and calls, David, Nick, Bunmi and Liliane decided their next event at MIPTV in April should ape the previous event. They would then aim to go bigger at MIPCOM (the better attended market) in October. Therefore they needed to convince another high profile speaker to speak to the group, and Bunmi convinced David Ellender, President, Global Distribution and Co-Productions at Sonar Entertainment to do so. Once again it was very well attended event and in addition to remarks from David Ellender, attendees also got to hear from the actors Anika Noni Rose and LeVar Burton. Please see highlights video below:
After another successful event the team decided to formalise the group and DiversifyTV was formed with David, Nick, Bunmi and Liliane on the board. Liliane agreed to make her employers, Reed Midem (organisers of the MIP markets) aware of what we had been doing and encourage them to discuss partnering with DiversifyTV to promote increased diversity in the industry. Reed Midem embraced the idea and over a period of many months, the two groups planned a Diversity Summit which took place at MIPCOM 2016 (highlights below).
At MIPCOM 2016 Reed Midem chose to award producer, writer and showrunner Shonda Rhimes MIPCOM personality of the Year, the first black woman to be bestowed with this honour. Shonda gave a keynote at the conference and the DiversifyTV team were invited to a dinner in her honour (pictured right).
As there had been plenty of talks focussing on diversity, rather than host another talk and networking event, DiversifyTV put on a party at Club C21 to let members and allies let their hair down.
After arranging such big events at MIPCOM 2016, it was decided that for the smaller MIPTV market in 2017, Diversify TV would go back to having another drinks networking event at La Bouche á Oreille and make big plans for another big event at MIPCOM.
Nick put forward the idea of hosting an awards ceremony that recognised the top quality shows that gave a fair and accurate representation of minorities. He was keen that instead of being judged by industry peers like the average awards show, that the DiversifyTV awards were judged by commuinities that are so often poorly represented. The team grasped on to that idea and began contacting charities and organisations that represent minority communities to join the judging panel.
Liliane brought colleagues from Reed Midem onboard, and alongside the Diversify TV team, planned not just the awards, but a full diversity and inclusion programme for MIPCOM. More can be read about the Diversify TV awards here, other events included a Diversity lunch, which you can see a photo of Bunmi welcoming attendees to below.
Lastly through the Diversify TV teams’ relationship with Franklin Rae PR they were able to convince the comedian Lenny Henry to give a keynote on Diversity, which you can view below.
You can read a wrap of the MIPCOM 2017 diversity programme here
The amount of time organising events at MIPCOM was taking its toll on the Diversify TV team. Whilst they still believed there was much to do to increase diversity and inclusion in the international television industry, putting on events of this size whilst holding full time jobs was unsustainable, especially with Liliane moving to a new job outside of the TV industry that meants she would no longer attend TV conferences. It was agreed that before she left Liliane would approach Reed Midem with a proposal to solidify their commitment to diversity and inclusion and see them take the lead role in organising diversity programme. Reed Midem readily accepted the proposal and formed the mip markets diversity advisory board, which they invited David, Bunmi and Nick to sit on.
The DiversifyTV team continued to put on a networking drinks event at MIPTV and also advised on the diversity programme for MIPCOM, including being heavily involved in the 2nd Diversify TV Excellence Awards, which you can read more of here.
The amazing writer and producer Issa Rae was chosen to be MIPCOM’s personality of the year, she gave a keynote (which you can view below) and was also gracious enough to present a Diversify TV Excellence award
This article from Variety does a good job in summing up the increased effort to increase diversity and inclusion.
2019 once again saw DiversifyTV host a networking drinks event at MIPTV and the 3rd edition of the DiversifyTV Excellence Awards