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ITV and OfCom take a stand in support of Black Lives Matter

Big corporations publicly demonstrating their support of representation and artistic expression is an important step forward on the path towards becoming anti-racist brands.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE

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What does it mean in practice to be an anti-racist brand and an actively anti-racist organisation? Not only are these questions rightly at the top of the business agenda but they also need to be answered in every aspect of business.

Because it matters when big companies speak up. When those with national or global platforms are brave enough to, at times, move away from what has become the status quo to offer up a new perspective, to recognise that the ideas and sentiments behind it are more vital to consider than the backlash they may face. 

An example of what it means to be actively anti-racist was seen earlier this week as ITV took out a full page ad in national newspapers throwing its support behind the dance group Diversity, whose dance routine on Britain’s Got Talent was met with complaints.

The ad, created by Uncommon, shows a black and white image of the lead dancer in Diversity Ashley Banjo kneeling during the performance with two lines overlaid: “We are changed by what we see. Just as we are changed when we are seen.” The copy underneath then reads, “ITV. Stand with Diversity.”

ITV stand with diversity.jpg

The ad comes in response to the thousands of complaints the dance group received after their Black Lives Matter-inspired performance. The routine told the story of a father retrospectively telling his son about the events of 2020 and included references to the coronavirus outbreak, brutality against Black people and the death of George Flloyd which sparked global Black Lives Matter protests.

Alongside ITV’s support of the performance and its sentiment, the regulator Ofcom dismissed all complaints in an eight-page document that said that the dance’s central message, “was a call for social cohesion and unity.”

The truth of the matter is that tens of thousands of people still complained about the performance, highlighting simply, as Banjo wrote on Twitter, that performances like this are needed now more than ever.

Big corporations publicly demonstrating their support of representation and artistic expression is an important step forward on the path towards becoming anti-racist brands. This clarity of this creative work can help bring about much needed change faster. A compelling creative reminder that sitting on the fence, or ‘staying out of it’ is not a sustainable strategy.