Lights, Camera, Inclusion – Episode 4
Lights, Camera, Inclusion is the first video series by Now & Next, the editorial platform of the Canada Media Fund (CMF). It focuses on issues related to inclusion and representation on Quebec screens and the potential we see on the horizon.
Gaëlle Essoo, Lead Editor of Now & Next and Diego Briceño, Senior Manager, Diverse Community Content at the CMF, have united about 20 key people from Quebec’s screen industry around five round tables, with the goal of engaging in lengthy and fruitful conversations.
Throughout these episodes, we will address various issues and points of view in order to demystify the particularities of Quebec’s situation, and together, imagine the future of a more inclusive and equitable industry, with future generations in mind.
How can we encourage more equitable access and sharing in broadcasting?
In this fourth episode, we’ll talk about the central role broadcasters play in diversifying content shown on Quebec screens, and about the urgent need for them to make room for new players and leaders from Indigenous, racialized, and other diverse communities.
· Chan Tep, Strategic and Operational Planning Counsellor, Diversity and Inclusion, Radio-Canada
· Nadège Pouyez, General Director, Strategy, Original Content and Convergence at Quebecor Content
· Jean-Yves Roux, President et founder of Natyf TV
The “Key Takeaways” section is by Édith Vallières
Offering more inclusive content to align with today’s realities
According to this round table’s participants, the need for diversity in content is on everybody’s mind now more than ever — particularly due to social movements (such as Black Lives Matter); Quebec’s changing demographics; and arrival of big American players (Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, etc...) which attract all kinds of youth by presenting inclusive, varied content. “Young people are already inside this diversity. Whether it’s sexual, cultural, of language or of body, they accept and embrace it,” offers Nadège Pouyez.
However, according to Jean-Yves Roux, Quebec television is barely keeping up with these technological and ideological advances. “The real challenge is to catch up after almost twenty years of lateness,” he affirms.
To effectively modernize ourselves and reach youth (who will become tomorrow’s 24-54 year old audiences), Quebec broadcasters should rely on discoverability. We must “be able to reach young people where they are, on digital platforms, and then create content that’s adapted to them and that represents their reality,” explains Chan Tep. Also, Nadège Pouyez adds, we must “stop trying to think that they’ll sit in front of the TV and listen to us. We have to put ourselves on their path [...], speak to them in their codes, and [...] address them according to their vision of things.” She warns: “I think if we don’t do it, we’ll die as cultural references for this generation.”
The local industry also needs more universal storytelling. “We have to stop always wanting to finance the same stories, told by the same authors all the time, in the same ways,” says Jean-Yves Roux before adding that the Quebec population, notably its million racialized people, are more driven to watch American television than Quebec television, “not just because there isn’t much colour here. The stories must interest them.” As Chan Tep sees it, creative audacity is therefore of prime importance.
Including in new players from underrepresented communities, and training them well
For a long time, youth from racialized and Indigenous communities could not access the audiovisual milieu, which was perceived as unwelcoming and reserved for a few white people. As a child of the ’80s, Chan Tep knows all about it. “If we look at the history of cultural communities, they don’t necessarily favour audiovisual professions [...] My parents told me: “No, you won’t go work in television, you’ll find a real job somewhere else.”
These young people, like Chan Tep, also had a hard time envisioning themselves in the industry. “When we don’t see ourselves [on screen], we don’t feel represented. We don’t feel we exist, which can play with our confidence and self-esteem,” she explains. Jean-Yves Roux shares Chan Tep’s observation and experience, all while noting some changes in recent years. “There are certain openings that weren’t there before. It’s possible to break through.” According to Nadège Pouyez, Québecor “removed many barriers when they stopped saying things such as: ‘This person is racialized, it won’t work…’”
To build sustainable new connections based on trust as well as bridges with underrepresented communities, the industry must help, guide, support, and adequately train them. Chan Tep affirms: “We must be able to bring people into a pre-established system that’s already there, and then, be able to take them a bit further [...] it’s collaborative work that plays out at various levels.”
For example, according to Nadège Pouyez, the industry should rely on agencies such as l’Agence On est là! to create more multicultural castings that go beyond the cliché of “we put someone in with diversity X or handicap X, so it seems like we’re checking off an Excel sheet.” She adds: “We must bring these people the opportunity to gain experience, to deliver. Because, indeed, sometimes within communities, it’s tougher for young people to raise their hands and say, ‘I exist.’ They have ideas, they have talent, sometimes they come from other countries. And we’re not able to spot them.”
Jean-Yves Roux also believes the industry should rely on complementary support media, equipped with a different mission, to develop a new generation of professionals and build their experience. He mentions Natyf TV, the television network he leads, and which, since its June 2018 launch, functions as a significant springboard for multicultural emerging talent. “Producers who are perhaps less experienced, with whom [Natyf TV] develops projects, could in two or three years be doing business with the biggest broadcasters [such as Radio-Canada and TVA],” he specifies.
Having more Indigenous and racialized decision-makers
According to Jean-Yves Roux, Quebec’s reality can be summed up as a star system, a minimart inside a huge North American anglophone market. “We split the pie between the three or four major players who make all decisions for an already-small market. It’s not easy to work and make things evolve in this kind of market,” he says.
Therefore, structural overhaul is required, according to Chan Tep. “The more racialized people we have in decision-making roles, the better the industry will be,” because these people will understand what it’s like to have to constantly fight and prove one’s self.”
Little by little, the industry is starting to take this path, though much work remains to be done in this sense. Chan Tep mentions Radio-Canada’s goal of having one in four people in key creative roles coming from underrepresented groups, by 2025. “My position [of Strategic and Operational Planning Counsellor, Diversity and Inclusion, Radio-Canada] was specially created to be able to bring more diversity and inclusion to the screen, radio, and web,” she explains.
Nadège Pouyez believes that current decision-makers must demonstrate cultural humility, which means they have the obligation to think about biases, take the time to learn from people not of the cultural majority, and listen to their different points of view and ways of doing. “These are words that are starting to grow in our institutions,” she remarks.
In conclusion, despite the great challenges connected to themes of equity, diversity and inclusion in the distribution world, this round table’s participants believe that the stars are well aligned to see positive changes. Slowly, but surely.