As part of its ongoing commitment as an anti-racist organisation to improve Black representation on and off screen and drive long-term change, Channel 4’s Director of Programmes Ian Katz has announced two major new commissioning opportunities – a new Black-led comedy series and a new unscripted series set in the Black community – which will feature in a Black Takeover of the channel next year.
From breakfast right through to late night, Channel 4 is set to disrupt its regular schedule and reimagine some of its biggest mainstream shows with a ‘takeover’ day of programming that will mark a year since the international protests and debates sparked by the killing of George Floyd and lead into Black History Month 2021.
The day will include new original scripted comedy led by Black talent, leading to a brand-new sitcom commission. The comedy team will be shortly briefing out how to pitch for this. We are also looking for an ambitious unscripted prime-time series providing an authentic look at Black lives on screen to launch on the day, as well as a new one-off late-night live topical discussion show.
Channel 4’s whole schedule will go Black for a day to amplify the conversations around representation and diversity, starting with a one-off special The Big Breakfast fronted by Mo Gilligan, and followed by some of Channel 4’s biggest flagship shows hosted by Black talent, including Celebrity Gogglebox, Countdown and Channel 4 News, with an all-Black presenting and reporting team. Hollyoaks will be an hour-long special entirely written, directed and performed by its Black talent.
To ensure that the Takeover project drives significant and sustainable change within the industry off-screen, Channel 4 has asked The Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity to help us shape ambitious and meaningful off-screen commitments to leave a lasting legacy and to ensure we are addressing specific problems in the industry.
Katz said: “Channel 4 was created to give voice to underrepresented parts of society and do things which other broadcasters would not, and the Black Takeover qualifies on both counts. It will be much more than a day of eye-catching programming, providing a focal point for our efforts to drive up on and off screen representation and leaving a lasting legacy on the channel and beyond.”
Kelly Webb-Lamb, Deputy Director of Programmes and Head of Popular Factual added: “Building on the content commissioned following the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, Channel 4’s commitment to improving Black representation will continue in 2021 and Viv and Shaminder’s ambition for a bold and truly memorable day on Channel 4 will ensure a lasting legacy, both on and off-screen. This project involves every slot, every genre, and every corner of the channel, and will therefore be the most radical and meaningful intervention into diversity in the channel’s history.”
Marcus Ryder, Visiting Professor, Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity said: “We are excited about the prospect of working with Channel 4 on this project. The role of the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity is to engage constructively with media stakeholders to help them create meaningful and long-term change.”
The project was conceived by commissioning editors Vivienne Molokwu and Shaminder Nahal. It will be led by Webb-Lamb with Vivienne and Shaminder working across the whole day. Head of Creative Diversity Babita Bahal will oversee on and off-screen commitments alongside Head of Commissioning Management Emma Hardy.