Netflix, BBC to Develop, Co-Produce Shows From Disabled Creatives

U.K. public service broadcaster BBC and Netflix have formed a partnership to develop and fund “new, ambitious dramas” featuring disabled creatives both in front of and behind the camera.

The five-year collaboration is designed “to increase representation of disabled talent both on-screen and off-screen, to widen the range of stories produced and give disabled writers and creatives greater choice when it comes to the sort of stories they wish to tell.”

The partners said they would consider projects from U.K. producers that have been created or co-created by writers who identify as deaf, disabled and/or neurodivergent. “Pitches can draw imaginatively on any genre, precinct or world,” they said. “We are looking for ideas which feel ambitious and elevated, and which challenge the limits that the industry might unconsciously put on disability. The intention of the partnership is to firmly place the shows alongside our most talked about and original dramas already being developed.”

All projects will be assessed and developed jointly, but the BBC will be the “point of entry” for all project submissions and pitches. The companies plan to make available to all producers an outline of the process along with a webinar.

The news was unveiled ahead of the last day of the annual Edinburgh TV Festival on Thursday.

On Monday, His Dark Materials and The Eddy writer Jack Thorne used the high-profile MacTaggart lecture there to argue that “TV has failed disabled people,” criticizing how the British TV industry has dealt with disability on and off screen.

“Jack’s powerful, memorable MacTaggart has shone a revealing light onto the extent of the challenges faced by disabled creatives,” said Piers Wenger, BBC director of drama. “We recognize the need for change, and we hope that in coming together the BBC and Netflix have created a funding model, which will help level the playing field for deaf, disabled and neurodivergent creators in the U.K.”

Added Anne Mensah, Netflix’s vp, series, U.K.: “Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent creators are some of the least well represented groups on television in the U.K. Put simply, we want to change that fact. Together with the BBC, we hope to help these creators to tell the biggest and boldest stories and speak to the broadest possible British and global audience.”

In Britain, disability is defined within the Equality Act 2010 as a person having a physical or mental impairment, and “the impairment having a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” Among the medical conditions and impairments the Act deems to be a disability are the likes of cancer, HIV and MS.

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