Channel 4 are trying to start a revolution. During the London 2012 Paralympics, 50% of their on-screen team were disabled. Now, they’re tackling the lack of diversity behind the camera. In an attempt to promote diversity in media, Channel 4 created the 2016 Rio Production Training Scheme to train disabled production staff to the level required to interview for roles in the Rio Paralympics Production team. The successful candidates were given jobs in teams at various TV channels and production houses, and meet up once a month to get top notch training at Channel 4 HQ.
We caught up with Nick, a 22 year old Junior Assistant Producer at Sky Sports, and Alicia, a 27-year-old Production Secretary at Lime House, about their experience of the scheme ahead of their work trip to Rio.
Why is the Channel 4 scheme so different?
“What Channel 4 have done with the scheme is basically revolutionary,” Nick told us. “You hardly ever get 25 people in a room all with various disabilities in the same scheme and on top jobs.”
“Disability is not something that people actually in the workplace are concerned or worried about, if you can do a good job they’re happy, but the problem seems to be getting into that job in the first place. The scheme gives a brilliant opportunity to do so, and if other companies could do the same, I think disability at work would become less of a taboo.”
“I think a lot of the issue is that interviewers will see someone with a disability and think ‘well can they do the job?’ Basically, the answer is: they can. Channel 4 have proved this,” said Nick, who has mild Cerebral Palsy.”There’s no difference between if you had a team of disabled people working on a job, or a team of able-bodied people working on a job, you’d get exactly the same results.”
Alicia, who suffers with anxiety and depression told us that Channel 4′s approach to job applications made a difference too.
“We had to do a whole application, you know, just as normal, fill out the questions, and then we had to answer questions via video. And I think that introduces Channel 4 to the person quicker than just reading black and white answers,” she said. “Channel 4 is very open minded. They wanna challenge stuff and they’ve already stated that even after the scheme’s ended they’ll still be there to help us. I think they really take you by the hand and guide you, even through the application process, because you feel comfortable enough to speak to them if you have any questions.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your roles?
“I work mainly on the football league on a Friday,” Nick told us. “So for example this week I’ve been setting up videos and montages to be used in the live coverage of tonight’s football league match, all the pre-match openers for the programme, teasers, interviews and the videos we show when the commentators and pundits talk about players and the match.”
“I started off as Production Assistant,” said Alicia. “Because they found me capable enough I’ve progressed on to Production Secretary. You’re training on the go, so you’re working while you learn, or you learn while you work. My role is stuff like inputting music cues, I’ve liaised with the broadcast channel that we’re doing a project for, I’ve gone through release forms and legal stuff as well, and liaising with the cast in pre-production and getting everything sorted.”
What’s been your highlight so far?
“I think the highlight of the scheme overall is that I’d always dreamed of having a career in sport and this scheme has given me the platform to do so and a springboard to carry on,” Nick told us. “I couldn’t be more grateful for this opportunity.”
“There was the Paralympics launch campaign at Channel 4” Alicia said. “There was a red carpet and drinks and canapes. We got to meet people that we’re gonna work with out in Rio, got to meet the presenters, and we obviously got to watch the launch of the ad for the Paralympics as well! It kind of said to you: welcome to your industry. It opened up doors, I met people that I never thought I would ever meet and now I can stay in contact with them, and if they’ve got jobs then I’ll know about it. I think that was my highlight.”
We grilled Alicia and Nick for their top TV career tips…
Don’t worry about who you know: “I think there’s this big idea that to work in TV you need to know someone in the industry,” Nick told us. “Actually, that isn’t the case. I think the more this idea gets put away, the better. There are a lot of opportunities out there. TV are always looking for new people, permanent or on a freelance basis, and if you have a qualification or an interest in the industry, they will have an interest in you.”
Consider every role: “Be open minded,” Alicia told us. “Sometimes there may be things that you probably wouldn’t even consider doing and it could either be a starting point for you, or something that you turn out to really love.”
Don’t let disability hold you back: “Don’t be afraid to just go for it,” said Nick. “I had limited experience in the world of TV and Production but I went for a job and I got it, so never be afraid to go for a job that you want.”
“There’s always production jobs going,” Alicia assured us. “As long as you can do the job efficiently and you’re willing to put the work in and the time, then there’s nothing stopping you. If you ever doubt yourself, find somebody that specialises in that area and have a chat.”
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