Channel 4 has outlined new commissioning guidelines aimed at increasing diversity on screen, which will ensure that at least one of the lead characters in every of its scripted programmes is from an ethnic minority background, has a disability or is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

If one of the above is not included as a lead character in a scripted programme then programme makers must ensure 50% of the lead roles are female.

The measures are part of a £5 million package of 30 initiatives that have been introduced by the broadcaster today as part of its 360º Diversity Charter. This also includes ensuring that the top 120 leaders at C4 meet the national averages for black, Asian and minority ethnic people (15%), gender (50/50), disability (6%) and LGBT (6%).

Channel 4 has also introduced Commissioning Diversity Guidelines, which have been developed in association with producers’ body Pact.

The broadcaster said this would ensure that every genre works towards “increasing diversity participation on and off screen”.

As part of the guidelines, companies making scripted programmes for C4 will have to make sure the shows “reflect the identities of the many communities in modern Britain” through stories and characters which “reflect the experiences of underrepresented groups”.

At least one lead role will have to be filled by an actor from a BAME background, with a disability or who is LGBT. If not, then at least 50% of the lead roles have to be women.

Off screen, the broadcaster has committed to ensuring that of a drama programme’s director, writer, producer or designer, at least one is from an ethnic minority or has a disability. If one of these is not met, then at least two people from the creative team must be women.

In addition, at least 15% of a production team or crew must be from an ethnic minority or have a disability.

These targets are ongoing from this year.

Channel 4 has also announced it is working to increase the pool of actors it can work with who have disabilities by holding casting days, and that it will launch a mentoring scheme for female directors in 2015 with industry body Directors UK.

The broadcaster has also announced writing initiatives aimed at identifying writers from the north, and from diverse backgrounds.

Chief executive David Abraham described it as “vital” that the broadcaster is “open to the widest variety of voices” and that it nurtures new talent.

“The launch of our 360º Diversity Charter is an opportunity for us to change how we think about diversity and ensure that it’s at the heart of everything that we do, on and off screen,” he added.

Channel 4 follows the BBC in launching a diversity strategy.

The Stage