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WIFT-T and VisionTV talk diversity at Hot Docs

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TORONTO - Canada's broadcast and production industry has made major strides in reflecting diversity but still has a long way to go, said a panel discussion at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival concluded yesterday.

Canadian and international media professionals were on hand this week at Hot Docs for a wide-ranging discussion on how filmmakers and journalists can better reflect the reality of an increasingly multi-cultural Canadian public.

As recently profiled in Broadcaster Magazine, diversity is a hot-button issue in the TV industry right now as the CRTC and the industry in general look for ways to reflect minorities on air and behind the camera, too.

"The Real Picture: Reflecting Diversity in Broadcast Journalism and Documentaries", co-presented by Women In Film and Television - Toronto and VisionTV, focused on the opportunities, and obligations, of broadcast journalists and documentary filmmakers to present truly representative stories to the Canadian viewing audience.

"As journalists and story-tellers, we cannot separate diversity from accuracy", said Sadia Zaman, executive producer of in-house production at VisionTV. "For example, to consistently portray Western Canadian farmers as white Anglo Saxons gives an impression that is not complete. By including other perspectives, such as stories on Muslim farmers, we show the true face of this country, and that is accurate journalism."

The discussion was moderated by Bill Roberts, president and CEO of VisionTV. Panelists included Canadian documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, (Our Nationhood, Is The Crown At War With Us?, Kanehsatake), journalist and executive director of Innoversity, Andra Stevens, Canadian documentary filmmaker Marilu Mallet (La Cueda Sola), Jenny Westergard, head of acquisitions and co-productions for Finnish broadcaster YLE FST, and WIFT-T president, Kate Hanley.

The Real Picture is one of several WIFT-T initiatives introduced this year to address diversity in Canadian screen based media. Other programs include the VisionTV Diversity in Broadcasting Internship and the Toronto 1 executive mentorship award, both designed to provide profile, experience and mentoring to talented women from a visible minority or aboriginal background. Later this spring, WIFT-T and a broad coalition of industry partners will release Freeze Frame: Employment in Screen Based Media 2004. For the first time, statistics will be made available on the participation of people from diverse backgrounds in all employment areas in the Canadian screen industries.
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