• Thursday, June 30, 2022


‘Too few south Asian faces in TV adverts’

A survey found that 51 per cent of BAME people feel telly advertising does not represent different cultures


THERE are not enough south Asians starring in TV adverts, according to leading actors. They believe progress has been made in making commercials more diverse, but said it is too slow.

Some broadcasters feel there are more Asian-origin people cast in mixed-race relationships in adverts, but racial stereotypes remain common. It comes after the UK’s advertising watchdog called for evidence in July of racial and ethnic stereotyping in advertising.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said its project aims to prevent “harmful” stereotypes on screen which could contribute to real-life inequalities. Its findings are expected to be unveiled later this year.

Actress Buckso Dhillon, who has appeared in soap Coronation Street and BBC drama Casualty, told Eastern Eye, “I see hardly any representation at all of south Asian actors in adverts.

“It seems they’re leaning toward representation for people of colour of African descent.

“Anything that is out there can be narrowed right down to the generic pharmacist, or doctor, nurse that might be played by the south Asian.”

Neev Spencer

But Neev Spencer, a TV and radio broadcaster, said she welcomed the new wave of representation she is seeing.

The mental health campaigner told Eastern Eye, “As a mother of children of mixed heritage it makes a huge difference to see mixed relationships and people of all ethnic backgrounds on our screens.

“I do feel at times, perhaps, there is more of a lean to one side of the ethnic minority and hope to see more Sikh families included in the future.”

A survey by Channel 4 last year found that 51 per cent of BAME people feel that telly advertising does not represent different cultures, rising to 62 per cent when asked whether black and brown cultures were poorly and misrepresented in adverts.

And 64 per cent of ethnic minority people said they would feel more positive about any brand that showcases different cultures within its promotions.

Recent examples include Channel 4 giving £1m in free airtime to a campaign highlighting the lack of British Asians in professional football.

The advert, featuring Leicester City midfielder Hamza Choudhury and a team called the Midnight Ramadan League, debuted during a Friday night in April, Channel 4’s most valuable slot for advertisers.

Bhavin Bhatt, an award-winning actor and dancer, believes the ASA, businesses, casting directors, producers and script writers must work together for ads to represent society.

He said: “Yes, there has been progress, but this progress has been at a snail’s pace.

“The stereotype of a ‘corner shop owner’ is still apparent and the lack of leading roles in TV adverts for south Asians is a gap which must be filled.

“TV adverts do not represent true society and car adverts are a prime example of the diversity issues we face.

“Why is it not okay to show a south Asian in a lead role driving a high-end car? he asked.

“There have been many audition calls for car adverts which state “looking for diverse artists”, however, the role never goes to an actor of colour.”

The ASA told this newspaper its project is looking to report on whether its decision-making is in the right place when it comes to racial and ethnic stereotyping in ads.

A spokesman said: “We are currently examining the submissions we’ve received, so we’re unable to share any key themes or issues from the evidence at this stage, but the key findings from the project as a whole will hopefully be shared towards the end of the year.

“If the evidence suggests a change in regulation is merited, we’ll set out the best way to achieve it.”

A report by the Ofcom broadcasting watchdog in 2018 found that people of south Asian origin sometimes felt stereotyped on TV, rather than portrayed in a manner that reflects their view of modern society.

Shivi Hotwani, an actor, radio presenter and model, said: “South Asian representation in advertising has increased somewhat, and it’s great to be attending castings for many more of these too. However, there is clearly still some way to go.

“It feels as though we have joined a priority queue of representation at the moment, and it still very much feels like a tick box exercise between ‘white’ and ‘non-white’.

“It is refreshing to see major brands like John Lewis, Asda, Nike, and Samsung embracing diversity in their advertising.

“As an actor, it is still, however, rare to work with more than two other south Asian actors on the same production, unless it is specifically for a south Asian project.”

Eastern Eye

Related Stories

Eastern Eye


Mrunal Thakur on Dhamaka, experience of working with Kartik Aaryan,…
Nushrratt Bharuccha on Chhorii, pressure of comparison with Lapachhapi, upcoming…
Abhimanyu Dassani on Meenakshi Sundareshwar, how his mom Bhagyashree reacted…