CBS to increase diversity on unscripted series like Survivor, Big Brother

In a long-overdue move, CBS vows that beginning with the 2021-2022 television season, 50% of the contestants on its unscripted series will be people of color.

In the wake of controversial all-star seasons of both Survivor and Big Brother that have drawn criticism for their handling of racial issues and their treatment of contestants of color, CBS has decided to make some changes to its entire unscripted line-up, which also includes such series as The Amazing Race.

The network announced earlier this week that, beginning with the 2021-22 broadcast TV season, at least 50 percent of the contestants on its unscripted series will be Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

The network is also aiming to allocate at least a quarter of its annual unscripted development budget to projects created or co-created by BIPOC producers beginning during that same period.

“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 George Cheeks, President and Chief Executive Officer for 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.”

Many reality series have been under increased scrutiny in recent months to increase POC representation onscreen. Former Black Survivor contestants spoke out about the show’s need for more inclusive casting and better treatment of its non-white players, while Da’Vonne Rogers repeatedly highlighted the fact that there has never been a Black Big Brother champion during her recent All-Stars appearance. (She herself became the first Black contestant to win America’s Favorite Houseguest at the conclusion of this season.)

CBS is the first major broadcast network to make such a sweeping commitment to change in its reality series – it vowed earlier this year to institute similar changes in its scripted programming, promising to dedicate 25% of its script development budget to projects created or co-created by BIPOC – but, hopefully, it will not be the last.

What do you think of these changes? Do you think a more diverse cast will help improve shows like Survivor and Big Brother? Sound off in the comments.