Diversity & Black Lives Matter
Warren Nettleford, Reporter, Presenter ITV News
It’s the most complained about bedtime story in the history of British Television.
‘Tell me the one about the riots again?’
It’s a fairly innocent opening question by an angelic child on stage, but it’s what happened next that became a problem for many who watched. This imagined tale, expressed through a four minute dance performance on Britain’s Got Talent last September, led to an avalanche of complaints to the broadcast regulator Ofcom.
24,500 complaints were received - many saying that Diversity’s Black Lives Matter inspired dance routine was ‘too political’, that it was ‘racist’ towards white people, and that it was ‘inappropriate’ for a primetime show.
The depiction of a white police officer briefly appearing to be kneeling on the neck of Diversity star Ashley Banjo for 8 seconds was heavily criticised amongst the complaints for being too graphic. The performance included dancing police officers in riot gear and a throbbing soundtrack with the words ‘I can’t breathe’ - the last words heard by George Floyd.
Ofcom dismissed the complaints though and did not launch an investigation, finding instead that:
‘Diversity’s performance was an artistic expression of topical social issues and did not contain any content which was racist, unsuitably violent or otherwise inappropriate in the context of this programme’.
To date, this remains the most complained about show in Ofcom’s history which hasn’t warranted an investigation.
ITV made the strategic decision to fully support Diversity with a number of full page adverts inside national newspapers last September. ‘ITV stand with Diversity’ was the headline.
It was a move that provided Diversity with support as the levels of online abuse they received significantly increased. For ITV though that decision not only increased their brand awareness according to the pollsters Yougov, it also saw ITV’s word of Mouth Exposure scores also increase - more people were talking about them. Social media saw many positive responses posted as a result of the move. Pollsters claimed ‘ITV’s decisive intervention has had a positive impact on the influential demographic that want brands to be vocal about social issues.’ That means younger viewers
If the dance routine was effective in striking a nerve amongst the British public through Diversity’s depiction of racism, it was a battle that Ashley Banjo relished - saying shortly after the performance he was ‘proud’.That pride was transformed into vindication when Diversity won a 2021 BAFTA award for the Must See TV Moment of the year. An award that was decided by members of the public. On receiving the award Ashley Banjo was keen to thank everyone who supported the group and even those that didn’t “Thank you to the people that complained.. You showed us why this performance was necessary. This is what change looks like. Let’s keep on having those difficult conversations.”
If you want to hear more about Diversity & Inclusion at ITV, take a look at our Diversity Acceleration Plan results.