CBS has committed to making sure its reality shows are diverse. On Monday, the network announced it has set a target for all future unscripted programs to have casts with at least 50 percent of the contestants being Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), beginning in the 2021-2022 season.
In addition to the contestants being diverse, CBS also said it would be allocating at least a quarter of its annual unscripted development budget to projects created or co-created by BIPOC producers. In addition, CBS will develop future initiatives with its production partners to expand diversity in all of the creative and production teams involved in making an unscripted series.
CBS’ popular reality shows include Survivor, Big Brother and Amazing Race.
“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,” President and Chief Executive Officer for the CBS Entertainment Group, George Cheeks, 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.”
Last July, some viewers called out Big Brother season 21 on social media, accusing some of the contestants of being racist. Three contestants of color — David Alexander, Ovi Kabir and Kemi Fakunle — were the first to be evicted, and contestant Jack Matthews was criticized by fans when he mimicked a monkey when referring to David, the only Black male houseguest. Houseguest Tommy Bracco also made a joke about “rice pudding” when referring to fellow houseguest Isabella Wang, who is Asian.
CBS and Big Brother producers acknowledged that they shared some of the viewers’ concerns in a statement to ET at the time.
“Big Brother is a multi-platform reality competition show about a group of people who live in a house for several months with no contact from the outside world,” the statement read. “The audience is able to view the show during the multiple weekly broadcasts as well as on the 24/7 live, online stream, which captures unedited content of the contestants’ unfiltered moments in the House. At times, the Houseguests say things that we do not condone. We share some of the viewers’ concerns about inappropriate behavior and offensive comments, and producers have addressed specific incidents with the Houseguests involved. However, there is absolutely no truth that the casting of the show is racially motivated, that the Houseguests’ behavior is predetermined or that the outcome is controlled in any way.”
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