David Olusoga is one of the UK’s foremost historians, he has produced and presented programmes including Black and British: A Forgotten History and the BAFTA award-winning Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners. Olusoga delivered this years James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, the prestigious keynote address of the Edinburgh Television Festival, becoming the first black man to do so, after Michaela Coel became the first black woman in 2018.

He used his speech to call for structural change in the UK TV industry. You can watch the entire speech on the link below, but if you don’t have time, underneat you will find some of the quotes I found the most powerful.

“Thirty years of failed initiatives and ineffective training schemes, and the constant haemorrhaging of BAME, talent has left another legacy. A lack of trust so deep that the announcements and initiatives of 2020 have been met, by many black and brown people in the industry, not with enthusiasm and excitement but with scepticism born of repeated disappointment.”

“We need to make structural changes, not merely seek to bring black and brown people into a system that has historically failed them,”

“There is willingness to accept black people as performers, in front of the camera, but unwillingness on the part of the industry to make space for them behind the scenes, in the rooms where the decisions are made and the real creativity happens,” 

“No industry training scheme and no amount of monitoring will lead to real change unless we accept that merely having black people in the room is not enough. It often feels as of our diversity is cherished only so long as it doesn’t upset the values and beliefs of those with power,”

“Our industry is full of people who have convinced themselves that they are ‘colour-blind’ and ‘just don’t see colour’ – a laudable ambition, but here’s the problem with it: being blind to race is being blind to the way race operates within our society, and that means being blind to the lived experiences of black and brown people,”

“The industry also needs to listen to us, to value our perspectives and our stories, to understand that we come from a different place, consume different culture, read different books, and see the world from a different perspective,” Olusoga said. “And that that perspective is valuable.”

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TV Historian David Olusoga’s Powerful Lecture

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