Today, Friends Families and Travellers wrote to Amanda Berry, Chief Executive Officer of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) to voice concerns on the nomination of Hardcash Productions for an award.
Hardcash Productions is the production company behind the show ‘Dispatches: The Truth About Traveller Crime’, which is currently under investigation by Ofcom for potentially breaching rules on harm and offence following over 8000 complaints; over 800 through the Ofcom complaints form and the remainder through a complaints letter organised by Friends, Families and Travellers.
The letter urges the Chief Executive to revoke the nomination on grounds that it goes against the BAFTA commitment to diversity and inclusion principles. The content of the letter can be found below:
“Re: Hardcash Productions nominated for ‘Current Affairs’ BAFTA
Dear Amanda Berry, Chief Executive of BAFTA,
We are writing to you today to express our anger and disappointment following the news that Hardcash Productions, the production company behind the show ‘Dispatches: The Truth About Traveller Crime’ which is currently under investigation by Ofcom, have received a BAFTA nomination at the 2020 Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards and British Academy Television Craft Awards.
On the evening of Thursday 16th April 2020, a Hardcash Productions product ‘Dispatches: The Truth About Traveller Crime’ was broadcast on Channel 4. The show’s discriminatory portrayal of Gypsy and Traveller communities has led to over 8000 complaints from members of the public to Ofcom and Channel 4, mainly from member of Gypsy and Traveller communities. These complaints have prompted Ofcom to launch an investigation into the programme for potential breaches of content standards for television and radio.
It is not a whole community that commits a crime, it is an individual. We are deeply concerned that, as an award body which describes diversity and inclusion as ‘important’, giving this prestigious nomination and potentially an award to Hardcash Production, who proudly put an entire community to trial by press, does not send this message.
Below are listed some of BAFTA’s Diversity and Inclusion principles:
- We aim to use our influence to encourage the industry to coalesce behind effective change. We believe that the industry is most effective when we work together towards shared goals.
- We value effective action over profile-raising so we are happy to support the good work of our many partners who share our aim of developing a more inclusive industry.
Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are recognised ethnic groups, protected under the Equality Act 2010 and each with their own distinct histories, cultures and languages. Hardcash Productions chose to ignore principles of diversity and inclusion when they produced this programme, which has perpetuated discrimination, prejudice and hate speech toward Gypsy and Traveller communities.
We are aware that it is not ‘Dispatches: The Truth about Traveller Crime’ which has received a nomination, but we hope that you will understand that this production and this title caused great hurt and harm to community members, even before it aired. We hope you would agree that it is unacceptable to frame a television show around a whole ethnic group as supposed perpetrators of crime, ultimately essentialising and naturalising crime as inherent to the ethnic group. We believe that the production company took little or no care to avoid stereotyping of Gypsies and Travellers. Comments online and elsewhere bear out the hurt and outrage felt by many which they see as tantamount to abuse of a whole community.
Below are just some of the statements we witnessed online from members of the public as a response to the documentary:
- “Sterilisation plan should be introduced for all at an early age. Soon sort the problem.”
- “I feel no shame in saying if we were rid of them our country would be a better place.”
- “I would do time to get rid of them.”
- “The traveller community are a bloody nuisance, setting up where they like, not contributing to anything, no rules & regulations – should be exterminated”
- “Gypsies are scumbags”
- “Just round them all up and lock them up in a field somewhere. They love camping so!! Thieving twats the lot of them.”
- “The truth about travellers crime… basically the pikeys are a crime wave”
- “Why can’t some of these low life travellers get covid?”
We do not have an issue with the nominated programme ‘Undercover: Inside China’s Digital Gulag (Exposure)’, but I hope you can understand our concerns that with Hardcash Production’s nomination for a BAFTA comes a huge amount of reputability and respect. We worry that this could affirm their position as a reputable source of information on current affairs despite coming under fire from human rights groups for misrepresenting statistics and presenting information without due impartiality.
We have heard countless stories of people from Gypsy and Traveller communities who are afraid to go into work out of fear of what others might think, of businesses who have lost customers and of many parents who are afraid to send their children back to school when the time comes because of fears of racist bullying. You can find below just a handful of stories we have heard in recent months:
“The C4 programme literally said that we’re [Travellers] people who do crime. After the programme went up I had gorja (settled) friends and family ringing asking whether it was true. Some of them knew better, but other people were judging me for it. I work in a nice place, but my work don’t know that I’m a Traveller, I don’t tell them because of programmes like this. If people knew that I was a Traveller, things would be completely different. That’s the kind of thing we have to do because of programmes like this. In a job I had before, I told them after a while that I’m a Traveller and they took responsibilities away from me, they wouldn’t let me do things on my own anymore. That’s what programmes like this do to us. I was on the team that produced the flowers for Harry and Meghan’s wedding, but I never thought I could tell people who I was.”
“People who we used to call neighbours and friends have asked us how we got the money to set up our business – is it that we’ve been robbing ATMs or breaking into people’s houses? It’s hard to answer, I want to be polite, but I’m angry, it’s upsetting. I’m 62. I don’t rob or steal. There’s good and bad in everybody. I don’t think Channel 4 can make up for this. It takes so much to win back people’s trust.”
“We receive enough racism as it is. This program is going to make things worse. I live with my husband and children on the same property as my parents and brother. In the last five years, we’ve received death threats and hate mail. We live on a farm/smallholding. We’ve had nothing but struggles since we moved here. Neighbours have told people coming to visit us to stay away. When electricians and builders came to work on my dad’s property, our neighbours stopped them to tell them we wouldn’t pay them. People we’ve known and worked with for years. We always pay our way and we all work! One neighbour stopped our children from playing together when she found out I was a Gypsy. She worked in my daughter’s school, in her classroom. She started to ignore my daughter. Her education was damaged a lot because of her. The school didn’t do anything about it, so I removed her from school and put her into a new one. Finally she’s getting the education she needs. We don’t know what it’ll be like when she goes back after this though. We just have to wait.”
As per your Diversity and Inclusion principle to use your ‘influence to encourage the industry to coalesce behind effective change’ this is an opportunity to send a strong message that BAFTA will not tolerate or celebrate production companies like Hardcash Productions who are willing to throw communities under the bus for ratings.
The programme is being investigated by Ofcom and we are in hope that Hardcash Productions will need to reflect upon their decisions and issue an apology to members of the public for whom the impact of this programme will be long lasting.
Last year, at the BAFTA Film Awards Joaquin Phoenix made a passionate speech highlighting the lack of diversity among the nominations at the ceremony. Phoenix said,
“I think it’s more than just having sets that are multi-cultural. We have to do really the hard work to truly understand systemic racism. I think it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it. So that’s on us.”
We are asking you to do the hard work and to set reasonable standards which production companies should abide by, and to make a stand against racism and discrimination, in this instance directed toward one of the UK’s most marginalised communities. According to research conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 44% of British adults openly express ‘negative’ attitudes toward Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, the most of any protected characteristic group in England. We regularly hear from members of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities who feel that negative depictions in the media is the key driver of prejudice towards their communities and many feel powerless to do anything about this.
According to research by the Traveller Movement and GATE Herts, police officers consider hate crime to be the most common issue Gypsies, Roma and Travellers report to them, but less than 15% of hate incidences are reported to police. In airing the show, we believe Channel 4 did not fully take into account the possible effects the programme will have on Gypsy and Traveller communities who are already victims of discrimination and hate crime. As evidenced by a simple browse on social media, the content and the delivery of the show has already led to higher levels of prejudice and hate crime against Gypsy and Traveller communities in the UK.
We understand that you have started using the BFI Diversity standards as part of the eligibility criteria for the Film Awards, and state on your website that you ‘will introduce similar criteria into the television and games awards’.
There is no time like the present to make a strong commitment to diversity and inclusivity and we recommend that you apply these principles and ask that you revoke the nomination for Hardcash Productions at the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards and British Academy Television Craft Awards.
Friends, Families and Travellers”
Notes for Editor
About Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT)
Friends, Families and Travellers is a leading national charity that works on behalf of all Gypsies, Roma and Travellers regardless of ethnicity, culture or background.
Sami McLaren, Communications Officer
Tel: 07436 228910 Email: [email protected]
Friends Families and Travellers. ‘Ofcom launch an investigation into Channel 4 show “Dispatches: The Truth About Traveller Crime”. May 2020. View page.