CBS has made a pledge to feature diverse casts on all of the network’s upcoming reality shows, including anchor series Survivor, which has come under fire for lacking inclusiveness.
George Cheeks, the CEO of CBS Entertainment Group, announced the new mandate on Monday. “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,” he said.
Viewers should expect long-running Survivor, fan favorite Big Brother, and recent hit Love Island, to feature casts that are made up of at least 50% minorities in the upcoming 2021-22 television season.
“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,” Cheeks remarked.
The policy change comes on the heels of controversy over lack of diversity and racial issues that have plagued the network over the last few years. In 2017, CBS came under fire for releasing a fall lineup that starred primarily white men.
In 2019, minority contestants were seemingly targeted by white competitors, endured “degrading and threatening comments,” and dealt with a producer that was reprimanded for his racist actions with “unconscious bias training.”
During the summer, former Survivor contestants Sean Rector and Jolanda Jones formed The Black Survivor Alliance, and held meetings with host Jeff Probst and CBS executives with the aim of “”bringing light to our collective experience with implicit bias and racism on and off the show.”
The Black contestants of Survivor spoke out in and interview series about the racism and bias they endured while filming, and how it played out through editing choices on the show.
“Many people do not realize the impacts that [diversity] has on the game. When you truly diversify the cast (and I don’t mean just a sprinkle of each race in every season),” said Survivor: Edge of Extinction’s Julia Carter. “You even the playing field and allow every castaway a real opportunity to connect with more individuals, find allies, and win the game.”
Survivor: Cagayan’s J’Tia Taylor remarked, “lazy, crazy, workhorse, and sidekick are the typical ways that Survivor portrays African Americans, which is disproportionally negative.”
CBS announced that it will allocate 25% of development funds to projects created by minorities, and has a goal of staffing writer’s rooms with a staff that is 50% Black, indigenous, and people of color by 2022.