In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, CBS is making major changes on some of its biggest shows. The network was previously criticized by former cast members, staff, members of the press and viewers for a lack of inclusivity on shows like Big Brother and Survivor. CBS’s diversity plan has been put into place to ensure that the casts and staff of these shows will be more diverse.
Cast Members From ‘Survivor’ And ‘Big Brother’ Reflected On Lack Of Diversity
In the past, there have been instances on Big Brother where viewers at home got to see castmates use slurs and microaggressions towards each other. It led many to question the producers and those in charge of casting who let it happen. On season 21 of Big Brother, houseguest Kemi Fakunle was belittled by fellow houseguest Jack Matthews. His hateful comments sparked national outrage and led fans to create a petition to kick him off the show. Kemi was evicted from the show with two other minorities at the same time which sent the Big Brother fandom into an angry frenzy.
“I am extremely disappointed and disgusted by the behavior I am being made aware of that occurred thus far in the Big Brother house,” she wrote on Twitter after her elimination. “The degrading and threatening comments made by some houseguests and laughed at by others are outrageous and hard to see.”
At a press event, a reporter pointed out the same kind of issues that occurred with contestants on Survivor in the past. During season 38 of the show, contestant Julia Carter said that a racial slur was used which sparked a discussion about systemic racism that was not aired on television. She also received little air time.
“It was disappointing, especially being that my season was also lacking in diversity as I was one of two Black castaways” she said of her time on the show. “So to be underrepresented AND under-edited was a blow. I wanted to be a role model and fight the stereotypes that many Black castaways have been boxed into… so to not have the opportunity because I just wasn’t edited in defeated a lot of my goals for doing the show in the first place.”
Brice Izyah, the first Black, openly gay contestant on Survivor also called out CBS and started a petition to call out the lack of diversity and the way people of color are portrayed on the show. “My otherness was highlighted, and it made me an instant target,” he said. “On a tribe of six, I was the only non-Caucasian person.”
The Turning Point That Led To Changes Made On CBS’ Shows
After this most recent season of Big Brother All-Stars, houseguest Memphis Garrett was accused of saying a racial slur. CBS investigated the claims and found that no hate speech was used. However, they did say that they are banning racial slurs from the show. “Hate speech will not be tolerated, and those who violate the policy will be removed from the Big Brother House” the network continued in their statement.
Last seasons winner, Jackson Michie was confronted on finale night by host Julie Chen about his inappropriate behavior in the house. Members of the jury called him “degrading and condescending” especially after he made derogatory comments about a Hispanic castmate. After winning the show and walking out to confetti all around him, he uttered the words “I’m not racist.” This was a pivotal moment for everyone at CBS to take a look back and reflect on the lack of diversity and inclusivity on the show.
What Is CBS’s Diversity Plan Set To Be Put In Place Next Year?
The Television Critics Association held CBS executives accountable during an onstage press event recently. “A producer, we learned, in an attempt to get a soundbite, overstepped,” Senior Executive Vice President Thom Sherman of CBS said. “That producer was reprimanded and received unconscious bias training, as well as other producers on the show [did]. We don’t want that to happen again.”
“We’re telling you, you have a problem with your reality shows. Why don’t you just acknowledge that instead of spinning that?” NPR writer Eric Deggans asked. The event continued with more questions being dodged after news swirled of a diversity plan that will be put into place on some of the network’s most popular shows.
CBS’ new diversity plan states that “50% of its casts for its unscripted shows must be Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC) and it has committed that at least 25% of its annual unscripted development budget must go towards creators and producers that are BIPOC.” This will go into effect during the 2021-22 broadcast season.
In addition to the casts, CBS also wants at least 40% of its writers to be Black, indigenous or people of color. The network has also slated 25% of its future script-development money to projects with BIPOC creators or producers.