CBS Pledges to Diversify ‘Survivor’ and ‘Big Brother’ In a Huge Way

Lia Beck
·2 min read

Getty Images, CBS Photo Archive / Contributor

In upcoming seasons, the casts of CBS's reality shows are going to look a lot different in a way that's long overdue. According to a November 9th press release, CBS announced that its reality shows Big Brother, Survivor, and Love Island will now have casts that consist of least 50% Black, indigenous, and people of color, starting in the 2021-2022 season.

In addition to the casts of the shows being more diverse, the network also pledged to allocate at least 25% of its unscripted development budget to shows created or co-created by Black, indigenous, and people of color.

Per the press release, in July, the network previously pledged to diversify its writers rooms for scripted programming, and now CBS also plans to "develop future initiatives with its production partners to expand diversity in all of the creative and production teams involved in making an unscripted series."

"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," President and CEO for the CBS Entertainment Group George Cheeks said in a statement.

He continued, “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.”

Over the summer, several former Black Survivor contestants spoke out about their time on the show, saying that the editing of the series reduced them to stereotypes.

"What they don't do a great job with, is telling positive stories and connecting with the multifacets of being African American," J’Tia Hart, who was on the show in 2014, told NPR in July. "I have a degree in nuclear engineering from a top engineering school. I'm a mother. I work in national security. I am very well-rounded. And I just got boiled down to a simple trope of a lazy, unintelligent person."

It will be interesting to see how the new standards affect the shows. Diversifying is a good thing, and it could affect the outcomes of the series. But, if cast members themselves continue to make racist comments, they'll need to be held accountable, too.