On November 9, 2020, CBS announced its new initiative to promote diversity and inclusion within its unscripted shows such as Survivor, Big Brother, Love Island, and more. Going into the 2021-’22 television season and beyond, all casts will have at least 50% contestants who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). In addition to its casts, CBS will commit at least 25% of its annual unscripted development budget to projects created or co-created by minorities and set a target of 40% BIPOC representation in the writers’ rooms.
“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,” shared George Cheeks, President and CEO of CBS, in a statement. “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.
This announcement follows a slew of race-related controversies and allegations along with criticisms against CBS’ previous casting history. Most recently during Season 21 of Big Brother last year, several houseguests were accused of making racist remarks and exhibiting unconscious bias by consistently targeting people of color. Survivor has also been under fire for its lack of diversity, which inspired the fan-run Survivor Diversity Campaign and the Survivor alum collective The Soul Survivors Organization. Organizing committee members of The Soul Survivors Organization include J’Tia Hart, Jamal Shipman, Julia Carter, and Brice Johnston, with additional support from alums such as Wendell Holland, Russell Swan, Ramona Gray Amaro, and many more. The collective came together to focus on “improving diversity, equity, and inclusion on Survivor” and previously created a petition for anti-racism action.
While production for shows such as Survivor and The Amazing Race may not return in 2021 due to travel restrictions and health concerns with COVID-19, other reality shows have been able to successfully operate during the pandemic. Big Brother and Love Island began filming during the summer and wrapped up production this past fall with no health concerns or cases.