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Addressing the BAFTA in the Room

  • Opinion

By Hiba Ul-hasan, BA History

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTAs) was held on 19 February, and the list of winners was shocking. Although 40% of those shortlisted were of ethnic origin, all 49 winners were white. This is both disheartening and concerning. The lack of diversity among the winners does not truly represent the nature of the film industry, suggesting that there may be bigger issues within, particularly when non-white voices and viewpoints are marginalised and ignored.

To gain a better understanding of the BAFTAs and the various reasons why the results were so shocking, it is necessary to understand how the winners are chosen. The voting process is divided into three stages, according to the BAFTAs’ official website: longlisting, nomination, and winners. First and foremost, there is a longlisting stage in which industry experts with BAFTA memberships submit their picks for the year’s top films, performances, and other achievements. Then during the Nomination round, a minimum of 100 BAFTA members who are industry professionals vote on each category, and the longlist is then reduced down to a shortlist, with members selecting their top picks. Finally, the winners are determined by a final round of voting and announced at the annual award ceremony.

The involvement of BAFTA members is constant throughout the stages. There is a suitable eligibility criteria  which includes at least five years of experience in a senior or executive role. Although this may have been designed to ensure the quality of members by selecting experienced professionals, it also limits the diversity of members because of internal prejudice within the industry. This will hinder people of different origins from obtaining top positions, and if they do, this may be attributed to their social or economic standing.

“The lack of diversity among the winners does not truly represent the nature of the film industry and suggests that there may be bigger issues within, where non-white voices and viewpoints are marginalised and ignored.”

Another feature of the membership is a yearly subscription fee. Aside from the initial £150  fee for new members, there is a yearly regional membership fee ranging from £360 to £540. There are circumstances where a fee reduction or aid can be offered, but this implies that there is an economic aspect involved in determining winners. For example, some individuals’ votes may be influenced by their own business interests in certain projects.

It is critical to remember that diversity is about more than just representation; it is also about inclusion. A lack of diversity in award ceremonies such as the BAFTAs can reinforce structural inequalities, keeping talented individuals from diverse backgrounds from receiving the awards they deserve.

Photo Caption: BAFTA trophies (Credit: Hraybould).

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