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CBS commits to diversifying the casts of its reality shows

"Survivor: Island of Idols" contestants walk across a sandy beach.
Contestants on last year’s “Survivor: Island of Idols” head to a tribal council.
(Robert Voets / CBS)

CBS’ reality programming is about to get a little bit more real.

The network announced Monday its commitment to 50% representation of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) in the casts of its unscripted series. The network will also allocate at least a quarter of its annual unscripted development budget to projects created or co-created by BIPOC producers. Both commitments will take effect in the 2021-22 season.

“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,” said George Cheeks, president and CEO of the CBS Entertainment Group, whose flagship reality titles include “The Amazing Race,” “Survivor,” “Love Island” and “Big Brother.” “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.”

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Additionally, CBS will develop future initiatives with its production partners to expand diversity in all of the creative and production teams involved in making its unscripted series. It previously announced that all reality shows would provide sensitivity/bias and anti-harassment training for cast and crew before production began, and that they will be equipped with an on-site professional to provide a confidential means of reporting concerns.

The network recently announced that it would allocate a minimum of 25% of its future script development budgets to projects from BIPOC creators. It set a target for its writers rooms to be staffed with a minimum of 40% BIPOC representation beginning with the 2021-22 season, and a goal to increase that number to 50% the following season. It has also entered into a multiyear production partnership with the NAACP, and signed an exclusive agreement with 21CP Solutions, a group specializing in police reform efforts in the U.S., to advise on its police and legal dramas.


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