By: Debra Birnbaum
There may be no bigger issue plaguing the industry than diversity (or to be more accurate, the lack thereof), and Univision is stepping up to tackle it head on.
A new initiative called “Project Unbound” strives to close the diversity gap in entertainment both in front of and behind the camera by raising awareness, supporting emerging storytellers, and creating more inclusive content.
“It’s an effort to stop taking about it and start doing something about it,” says Tonia O’Connor, chief revenue officer of Univision Communications. “Because as much as we talk about it, the numbers have not moved. In some examples, they’ve gone backwards. It’s just unacceptable.”
O’Connor blames the existing ecosystem in the industry for the resistance to change. “We’ve made progress, no question, in terms of formats, new technology, new opportunities,” she says. “But at the end of the day, the access for young diverse creators, it’s just not there. We know a lot of people are doing great work, but we’re in a business of scale. So our view is that if we come together and we identify the best practices and the ways to create the network and the access for diverse creators, then that will open up opportunities and give us a chance to close the gap.”
Along with outreach to other companies and creators inviting them to join their campaign, Univision plans to publish a handbook next year outlining what they deem “best practices.” “It will be something that the industry can turn to so that everybody in the biz can make sure that we’re doing what we can in order to close the gap,” says O’Connor. Other Univision efforts include El Rey Network’s “People’s Network Showcase” as well as Fusion’s creative board, which includes Henry Louis Gates Jr., Viola Davis, Ezra Edelman, Jodie Foster, and Meryl Streep. “The point there is to bring together industry experts, people that can understand and identify good concepts and also know how to bring that forward to development,” says O’Connor, “but then to create a network of diverse creators and provide them the opportunity to develop their shows and concepts.”
Fueling their efforts is a recent study the network conducted, alongside Media Predict, asking respondents questions about entertainment. Among the notable findings, inclusive storytelling ranked as a top five concern. “About 50% of the respondents felt like the industry has made advancements from where we are, but only 35% of them felt as if we were in a good place today,” says O’Connor. “So there’s still a lot of work for us.”
O’Connor says she has no doubt that the initiative can effect change. “As long as we’re organized and we continue the outreach effort, we’re very confident that were going to be able to get there,” she says. “We believe the progress is there and achievable.”