The BAFTA awards were once Britain’s highest honor for entertainment, and winners were judged purely on the merits of the content they produced. Now, though, the British Film Industry is imposing additional requirements on shows that must be complied with to win an award.
Moving away from the quality of the story, the acting, the cinematography and pure entertainment, the new guidelines reward diversity, regardless of the appropriateness of diversity in the show’s setting.
Instead of rewarding merit, the new standards actually impact eligibility. If your program does not qualify to enter, you can’t win anything. According to the Daily Mail, the new British Film Institute guidelines have stringent requirements that must be met in order to even be considered for a BAFTA, meaning these awards are now more about compliance with a set group of standards than quality production.
BAFTA Requirements for Television Shows
The eligibility requirements outlined by the BFI include quotas for diversity, including gender balance and racial representation. The new rules are called “Diversity Targets” and have little to do with the entertainment value of the program. Some new rules include:
- At least one leading character must come from what the BFI defines as an under-represented group, regardless of audition results and fit. Under-represented groups include minorities, LGBT individuals, disabled performers, older performers, and other predetermined groups.
- In addition to requiring one lead to be from an underrepresented group, the BFI also requires a 50/50 split between male and female performers, regardless of story or fit.
- A diverse crew could help a program qualify and meet the standards outlined — according to the Daily Mail, the more foreign born performers and crew members, the better the chance for eligibility.
These new guidelines are more easily met by some programs than others – period and historic dramas in particular may have a difficult time meeting those standards and maintaining historical accuracy. Successful, award-winning programs like Downtown Abbey, would be required to comply with these rules if they want to qualify to even enter a clip or episode for the BAFTA awards.
According to BAFTA CEO Amanda Berry:
“Working in close consultation with the BFI and the wider television industry, we are delighted to be piloting the introduction of the BFI Diversity Standards, with the plan to fully introduce diversity standards for 2021.”
Television Following Film
The new, “woke” BAFTA rules follow guidelines already passed by the BFI for motion pictures; the rules in both categories cover live performances and animation. Later this year, the BFI is expected to require the same forced diversity for audible materials and productions. To make sure targets are met, BAFTA is also offering diversity training for productions — training is optional right now, but could become mandatory at a later date.