CBS, Home of ‘Survivor’ and ‘Big Brother,’ Sets New Diversity Target for Reality Shows

By David Oliver USA Today – CBS has set  a new diversity target for its unscripted series. The network, home to series including “Survivor” and “Big Brother,” announced a new goal for its future series to have casts that are 50% Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) starting with the 2021-2022 broadcast season.

This comes as the entertainment industry at large has vowed to make adjustments to its front-of-camera talent and behind-the-scenes staff in an effort to promote diversity. The nation experienced a racial reckoning this summer following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, after a white police officer knelt on his neck, and also  the death of Breonna Taylor at the hand of police. These were the latest sets of protests in a long-fought movement for racial justice.

“The reality TV genre is an area that’s especially underrepresented, and needs to be more inclusive across development, casting, production and all phases of storytelling,” George Cheeks, president and chief executive officer for the CBS Entertainment Group, said in a statement. “As we strive to improve all of these creative aspects, the commitments announced today are important first steps in sourcing new voices to create content and further expanding the diversity in our unscripted programming, as well as on our Network.”

CBS, the most-watched network, will also devote at least one-quarter of its yearly unscripted budget to projects created or co-created by BIPOC producers.

The network previously announced updates to its scripted programming in July. It said it would allocate at least 25% of its future script development budgets to BIPOC projects. It also set a writers’ room target, planning to have these staffs be at a minimum 40% BIPOC starting with the 2021- 2022 broadcast TV season. This would rise to 50% the year after.

CBS Studios is also working with the NAACP on establishing a production venture and signed an exclusive deal with 21CP Solutions, a group focusing on police reform efforts in the U.S. that will advise the network on its police and legal dramas.

There’s still a lot of work to do when it comes to proportionately representing people of color on TV, and particularly in powerful roles behind the camera, a new study shows. But there is clear progress being made: Black representation is growing on television.

That’s what the second part of UCLA’s study “Hollywood Diversity: A Tale of Two Hollywoods,” which focuses on TV, reported in a study published last month.

Although the study shows shows that Black characters have become better represented on TV, it points out that other minority groups are far from proportionally represented onscreen and elsewhere. Latinos and Asian Americans remain significantly underrepresented in nearly all industry positions; there is minimal presence in any job category for people of Middle Eastern and North African descent; and there’s virtually zero representation for Native Americans on TV.

Contributing: Carly Mallenbaum

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