CBS Commits to Expanding Unscripted BIPOC Representation

George Cheeks - NBC - Publicity - H 2020
Paul Drinkwater/NBC

CBS continues to make inclusion a top priority under CBS Entertainment Group CEO George Cheeks.

The network on Monday announced that it is targeting 50 percent of its unscripted casts to being comprised of Black, Indigenous and People of Color beginning in the 2021-22 broadcast season. Additionally, the ViacomCBS-owned broadcaster has also pledged to allocate a quarter of its unscripted development budget to projects from BIPOC producers for next season. CBS also plans to create other similar endeavors to expand diversity within the creative and production teams on its unscripted shows.

"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,” Cheeks said in a statement announcing the measures Monday. "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."

The efforts to improve unscripted representation follow similar measures Cheeks put in place in July for the scripted side. The network committed to spending a quarter of its scripted development budget on projects created or co-created by writers who are BIPOC and is targeting all of its writers rooms to be composed of 40 percent BIPOC representation for the 2021-22 season. The network said at the time that it expects that figure to grow to 50 percent for the 2022-23 season.

CBS has, over the years, been singled out for its lack of diversity on both unscripted hits like Survivor and Big Brother as well as its scripted offerings.

Since arriving in late January, Cheeks has made diversity and inclusion a top priority at CBS. In addition to the measures to improve representation on scripted and unscripted fare, Cheeks announced a multiple-year agreement between CBS Studios and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to team to develop and produce scripted, unscripted and documentary content for linear and streaming platforms. That production deal will be overseen by former Will Packer Media topper Sheila Ducksworth.

CBS is not alone in committing to improving inclusion goals. ABC in late September unveiled an ambitious slate of inclusion standards to ensure the network's programming and sets accurately reflects society.