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CBS Pledges to Make the Casts of ‘Survivor’ and ‘Big Brother’ 50% People of Color

Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

CBS just announced that it is committing to making at least 50% of the casts of their unscripted shows Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC). CBS also announced that they are devoting 25% of their unscripted budget to BIPOC creators. The changes are expected to take effect in the 2021-2022 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 CBS CEO George Cheeks. “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.”

CBS’s unscripted TV shows include fan-favorite staples like “Survivor”, “The Amazing Race”, “Big Brother”, and “Love Island”. The network has regularly come under fire for failing to cast diverse talent in both their scripted and unscripted programs. Unlike other broadcast networks like ABC (Grey’s Anatomy, literally any other Shondaland show) or NBC (This Is Us, Superstore), CBS has a reputation for white-washing its programming.

Last year, a former CBS Diversity & Inclusion executive wrote an op-ed in Variety accusing the company of having a “white problem”.

“While CBS proudly touts its diversity programs, a close look beneath the surface reveals that the company is unconcerned about creating space for minorities,” wrote Whitney Davis, who is a Black woman. “CBS continues to promote its diversity initiatives in public, while internally minorities are practically invisible.” 

In June of this year, a group of Black “Survivor” alumni created a petition demanding that the stalwart show make 30% of its cast BIPOC. They also asked that BIPOC are given “equitable screen time and opportunities to participate in marketing and promotional events.” The show’s Black alumni alleged that they were ostracized, gaslighted, and short-shrifted while they were contestants on the show. The petition received almost 8,000 signatures to-date.

As is expected, fan reactions have been mixed. Some people are happy that CBS is making the effort to fix the structural problems of their company. But others feel that the commitment is forced and will result in BIPOC cast members being treated as tokens.

This person is confident that CBS’s unscripted shows will simply improve by including more people of color on their cast lists.

If anything, this decision will add some much-needed change to their tired formulas.

This person was ready to submit their application.

Now that people know the playing field is more even, we’re sure that CBS will receive a more diverse pool of applications.

This person has doubts as to how CBS will approach choosing and casting POC.

It’s one thing to talk about diversity, but it’s another thing to actually choose people who represent a range of diverse cultures.

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