Inclusion Initiative Announced by CBS To Include More People of Color in Reality Show Casts

Lead Photo: Photo via Getty Images
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The demand for more inclusion across the entertainment industry has reached the realm of reality TV. On Monday (Nov. 9), CBS announced that all reality shows on its network starting in the 2021 season would require that 50% of its casts be Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).

Reality shows in the CBS lineup for 2021 include Survivor, Big Brother and Love Island. Future initiatives are also in the works at CBS, so that diversity happens across all aspects of it’s unscripted shows, including on its creative and production teams.

In a statement, George Cheeks, president and chief executive officer for the CBS Entertainment Group, said he recognized that the “reality TV genre is an area that’s especially underrepresented.”

“[It] needs to be more inclusive across development, casting, production and all phases of storytelling,” Cheeks said. “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.”

In July, CBS announced similar initiatives for its scripted programming by pledging to allocate at least 25% of its budget to develop scripts created by BIPOC. Plans are also set to make writers’ rooms include at least 40% BIPOC. CBS said that goal would increase to 50% the following season.

In the past, CBS has been criticized for its handling of race issues on its reality shows. During a Television Critics Association’s press conference in 2019, CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl and VP Thom Sherman were questioned about the network’s perpetuation of stereotypes on its reality shows, lack of diversity and reports about POC contestants on shows like Survivor being treated differently than other cast members.

“We have heard things…that we are not comfortable with, that we have not enjoyed hearing,” Kahl said. “And we will absolutely–after the season is over–take a look at the show. We, every season, try to go back and look and ask if there’s anything we can do better next year.”