Sir Lenny Henry speaks on TV diversity during NTAs and says ‘fight is ongoing’

Sir Lenny Henry has said that “there’s a lot of change happening” in the TV industry with regards to diversity, but said that “the fight… is something that’s ongoing”.

Speaking to the PA news agency on the red carpet at the National Television Awards, Sir Lenny, 65, said: “Things are changing.

“We’re seeing more people of colour wielding clipboards and telling people what to do.

National Television Awards 2023 – London
Holly Willoughby arrives for the National Television Awards at the O2 Arena (Lucy North/PA)

“I see more people with disabilities doing stuff, I see more people with tattoos.

“I think there’s a lot of change happening, just in the last five years but, don’t let anybody be thinking that it’s over. Because the fight and, it is a fight, is something that’s ongoing.”

Sir Lenny spoke on Meera Syal’s Alternative MacTaggart discussion at the Edinburgh TV Festival where she said that diversity is “window dressing” if things are not “changing fundamentally in the power structures”.

He said: “I think what she was saying was that it’s one thing to make a programme with a person of colour or LGBTQ (person), or person with disability, but it’s something else to let that person produce that programme. So I think until things change behind the cameras, nothing’s gonna change.”

Sir Lenny also spoke about what production companies can do to better safeguard talent and said: “Have a manifesto, have something written down that’s on everybody’s phone and on every wall that just lists the behaviours that are unacceptable and then at least you’ve got a constant reminder of, oh, this is a no smoking area, better not smoke there.

“Oh, this is an area where I can’t invade somebody’s personal space.”

National Television Awards 2023 – London
Vicky McClure arrives for the National Television Awards (Lucy North/PA)

Piers Morgan was also on the red carpet and has been nominated in the TV interviews category for Piers Morgan Uncensored on Talk TV.

Speaking to the PA news agency about his chances of winning, he said: “They’d all rather shoot themselves then give me an award but, but if it’s just on interviews, hard to say that anyone else has had bigger ones that we’ve had in the last year. So we’ve got a chance.

He added: “I don’t have any competition… I think Louis (Theroux) is one of the great interviewers out there… Graham (Norton) is obviously a good chat show interviewer, I do my thing. There’s room for all of us. I’ll pretend to be happy if they win.”

This Is England actress Vicky McClure also made an appearance on the red carpet and spoke about her excitement at the fact that Our Dementia Choir is performing at the awards ceremony.

McClure, who founded Our Dementia Choir, mentioned that they had performed at her wedding to Jonathan Owen and said: “Not many things in life are perfect, but that moment (her wedding) was and it was so special. We all had a massive party. You know, it was just joyful.”

This year, the National Television Awards is taking place at The O2 Arena in London with comedian Joel Dommett as host.

The awards this year include categories such as best serial drama performance, best talent show, and best daytime show, which, in recent years, has been won by ITV programme This Morning.

National Television Awards 2023 – London
Alison Hammond arrives for the National Television Awards at the O2 Arena (Lucy North/PA)

The TV show will seek to defend its title this year as the programme continues to face backlash amid the furore of the Phillip Schofield affair.

Schofield, 61, resigned from ITV in May after admitting to an “unwise but not illegal” relationship with a younger male colleague on the show.

Schofield and Willoughby had been long-listed for the best TV presenter prize, alongside fellow This Morning hosts Hammond, Dermot O’Leary, Rylan Clark and Martin Lewis, but only Hammond and Lewis made the shortlist.

The late Paul O’Grady, who died earlier in the year, has been recognised posthumously at the awards and so has Dame Deborah James, who died of bowel cancer in 2022.

Dame Deborah is named in the authored documentary category, for Bowelbabe In Her Own Words whilst O’Grady has been nominated in the factual entertainment category for his show For The Love Of Dogs.