Viewpoint: Encouraging diversity in production

By 15th April 2020 April 17th, 2020 No Comments

Words: Anna Ward, head of production for Premier League Productions, IMG

Stockley Park is not only home to the much talked about VAR, it’s also the base for IMG’s Studios production outfit. We employ over 600 technical and production staff with a client and programming portfolio of many of the world’s top sports federations and broadcasters.

In recent years IMG has championed a whole range of initiatives that have positively impacted on culture and delivered change. These have shown some real tangible results for the business – at the end of last month, 60 games into the football season for Premier League Productions (PLP), more than two thirds of the live match galleries have been directed by women.

IMG’s focus on diversity and inclusion hasn’t just been around gender, but has pushed to positively impact ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and culture. Staff are increasingly conscious that the teams working on productions need to be representative of those consuming their content.

As culture has shifted – the hope is that the creative processes will be positively impacted as diverse voices from around the department feel more comfortable contributing on the development of concepts, ideas, programming and driving the business forward.

Increasingly all of IMG’s clients are looking to their production partners to make demonstrable commitments and improvements around diversity and inclusion. This work invariably starts right at the tender and pitching stage, with some broadcasters now asking to see specific diversity and inclusion policy statements and commitments from producers to improve representation and inclusion.

During the recent Fifa Women’s World Cup, where IMG provided teams of production and technical staff, Fifa worked with us to improve gender diversity across all roles. Off the back of the huge success of the tournament, which attracted over 1.2 billion viewers, broadcasters and production partners are keen to continue to develop and support female sport. Lead by our new director of content, Stephen Cook, we’re developing concepts looking to champion and celebrate female sport across the globe. With global superstars and role models like gymnast Simone Biles, sprinter Dina Asher-Smith and US footballer Megan Rapinoe, women’s sport is on a huge upward curve and we want to be part of that. There’s no doubt that 2019 has been a breakthrough year for women’s sport.

To encourage difference of thought you need an inclusive and safe environment where people feel comfortable expressing different views

Cognitive diversity is what we should be trying to achieve – having people who think differently is where the business benefit is. To encourage difference of thought you need an inclusive and safe environment where people feel comfortable expressing different views rather than conforming with the norm or dominant perspective. Above all and to embrace change, you need leaders and managers who actively and openly listen to those varying perspectives and ideas.

To this end, the initiatives we’ve championed internally include mandatory unconscious bias training for the senior team; support for Channel 4’s disability training scheme; and the introduction of Lunch and Learn speaker sessions, including from transgender photographer Sophie Cook, Paralympians David Clarke and Martine Wright.

This article first appeared in the Broadcast Sport winter 2019 edition

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