By Brooks Barnes | Sept. 5, 2018
LOS ANGELES — Acknowledging a need to do “much more” to promote diversity, Warner Bros. and its corporate siblings, HBO and Turner Broadcasting, introduced a policy on Wednesday aimed at increasing the number of women and people of color involved in its movies and television shows.
WarnerMedia, now owned by AT&T, pledged that all of its divisions would use their “best efforts to ensure that diverse actors and crew members are considered for film, television and other projects, and to work with directors and producers who also seek to promote greater diversity and inclusion.” WarnerMedia said it would issue an annual public report on its progress, which it said would also take into account the L.G.B.T. community and those with disabilities.
The policy stops short of requiring Warner filmmakers and show runners to meet diversity benchmarks in their cast and crew, something encouraged by advocates. Stacy Smith, who researches gender equality in film and television as part of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, has suggested that stars insist on inclusion riders, contractual clauses that might require a cast to, for example, be 50 percent female, 40 percent underrepresented ethnic groups, 20 percent people with disabilities and 5 percent L.G.B.T. people.
But the WarnerMedia policy is nonetheless meaningful in Hollywood, where studios and television networks have been reluctant to publicly commit to greater diversity and inclusion — much less hold themselves accountable in reports. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative praised the policy on Twitter, saying it was “thrilled.”
“The WarnerMedia family has introduced an approach that accomplishes our shared objectives, and I applaud them for taking this enormous step forward.”
John Stankey, the chief executive of WarnerMedia, called the policy “the next logical step” in the company’s diversity efforts, which include workshops for emerging directors and writers, vocational training programs for underrepresented film and television technicians, and films like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Wonder Woman.”
WarnerMedia said it developed the policy with comment from the actor Michael B. Jordan, who was the first major star to announce that his production company, Outlier Society Productions, would adopt inclusion riders as a standard practice. Mr. Jordan made the commitment in the days after the Academy Awards in March, when Frances McDormand used the closing of her best actress acceptance speech to promote the contract clauses.
“The WarnerMedia family has introduced an approach that accomplishes our shared objectives, and I applaud them for taking this enormous step forward,” Mr. Jordan said in a statement.
“Just Mercy,” a Warner Bros. movie directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and starring Mr. Jordan, will be the first production to fall under the new policy, WarnerMedia said. (Warner Bros. is run by Kevin Tsujihara, the only person of color to lead a major Hollywood company.) Co-starring Brie Larson and Jamie Foxx, “Just Mercy” is based on the true story of Bryan Stevenson, the civil rights lawyer and social justice advocate. Production begins this week in Atlanta.