CBS Commits 25% of Development Funds to BIPOC Creators for 2021

     July 13, 2020

The times they are a-changin’, but are major networks actually committing to change in representation or just throwing up a black square on Instagram? CBS, it seems, is taking a pretty significant step forward, announcing today that the network is committing a minimum of 25% of its script development budget to “projects created or co-created by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).” The initiative will begin in the 2021-2022 development season.

In addition to the funding, the network is also targeting 40% BIPOC representation in its writers rooms, with a goal of bumping that up to a minimum of 50% in the 2022-2023 season.

“While steady progress has been made in recent years both in front of and behind the camera, change needs to happen faster, especially with creators and leadership roles on the shows,” said George Cheeks, President and Chief Executive Officer for the CBS Entertainment Group, in a statement. “As a network with ambitions to be a unifier and an agent of change at this important time, these new initiatives will help accelerate efforts to broaden our storytelling and make CBS programming even more diverse and inclusive.”

The measure comes amid one (of many) reckonings for Hollywood and beyond, as representation both behind and in front of the camera continues to come into question. A 2017 report–which included 25 shows on CBS—found that 69.1% of rooms led by a white showrunner had no Black writers and 17.4% had only one Black writer. Just as recently as this month, Insecure executive producer Prentice Penny wrote on the issue after several streaming services removed old episodes of shows like 30 Rock and The Office due to instances of blackface.

“Blackface getting on the air is a symptom of a much larger and disturbing problem,” Penny wrote, “Lack of representation in the writers’ room.”

For more on that situation, here are the 30 Rock details.