It is safe to say that COVID-19 either has or will negatively impact virtually every industry in the U.S. and abroad. Millions of Americans have lost their job or been furloughed, and many fear a second wave of infection is inevitable. One industry that people do not tend to focus on, that has been impacted significantly by this outbreak, is the film, television and streaming industry. This is truly an all-American industry, comprised of average people, small businesses and diverse workers that unfortunately are often forgotten as the industry tends to only be associated with big-name studios and celebrities. In fact, 87% of the businesses that make up the film, television and streaming industry are small businesses that employ fewer than ten people. Additionally, many of the skills needed to support the film and TV industry are specialties that do not easily translate to other jobs, and this particularly impacts the small business vendors, behind-the-scenes workers and others. So, for these people, they may not easily find other jobs, which significantly impacts the average worker within the industry. It is important that while we recognize the impact this pandemic is having on the wider economy, we don’t forget the many diverse and small business workers impacted within the film, TV, and streaming industry.
Despite all the negative impacts of this pandemic, it has highlighted the importance of the art produced through film, TV, and streaming services in many ways. For some, finding a new show to binge or movie to watch is a needed respite from the constant barrage of news about the horrors of COVID-19, a job loss, or a sick loved one. For parents and their children, programs such as Nick Jr.’s Noggin and others provide wholesome shows with positive messages and foundational learning concepts that are great entertainment to help support working (and tired!) parents. This program has also created a great deal of free content in response to the pandemic and so have many other services. Truly, the arts are a profound part of who we are as human beings. The arts produced by this industry have proven essential and a key mechanism to maintaining our ability to learn and mental health, particularly during this crisis. Because of this positive impact we must remember and consider this industry as our nation recovers economically and psychologically.
Though it is important to remember, and try to help, all workers impacted by COVID-19 when rebuilding our economy, it is also essential to remember the importance of diversity of the workforce within every industry. As the film and TV industry constricts, alongside the rest of the U.S. economy, it is vitally important to focus on ensuring that diversity stays at the forefront of our efforts to keep this and all industries thriving. The stories that our nation tells and records should be reflective of the rich diversity of our country. One way to ensure continued consumption of what the industry produces is to ensure that the faces in front of and behind the camera are a reflection of the people watching the screens. As a country, we will need to rebuild and grow our economy by getting everyone back to work and it’s important that all Americans have an equal opportunity in every industry. Given the current state of the job loss and economic woes, we must recommit to ensuring diversity grows in every industry. It has been proven that diversity helps the bottom line, and at a time when recovery is needed as quickly as possible, now is the time to leverage the powerful force of diversity to help propel our full recovery and continued growth and prosperity.
As we consider ways to help drive recovery and growth, in the meantime, one way for creators, especially those from underserved communities, to mitigate the economic damage of this pandemic, is to continue to be creative. One thing underserved communities can do to ensure diverse content continues to reach viewers is to produce it and to not allow COVID-19 barriers to hold them back. Artists must continue to find ways to produce content, by using everything at their disposal and taking full advantage of technology. Many content producers have had to continue to produce one way or another in isolation and those in underserved communities cannot afford to be left out. We encourage content producers from underserved communities to use their phones, computers, and any other devices available in their homes to continue sharing their gifts with the world, continue to advance their craft, and continue to support themselves, their families, and their community during these difficult times, despite the many challenges.
Though we have potentially not even seen the worst with respect to COVID-19, it is not too early to begin strategizing about how to ensure that our economic recovery is swift and fully inclusive. One consideration is the general impact that the film, TV, and streaming industry has on local economies. This industry has made more than $49 billion in payments to more that 280,000 local businesses across the U.S. and generally accounts for 2.5 million jobs. If the goal is a swift and complete recovery, we must ensure this industry is considered a vital part of that recovery. In addition, the recovery must be inclusive of every community. Unfortunately, at times, diversity programs are seen as expendable and are cut when the economy is hurting. We need to be aware of this possibility and encourage all companies to continue supporting and expanding diversity programs. As we work together to heal and rebuild our nation, we must not leave anyone in any community or workers in particular industries behind. We have an opportunity to pause, think and strategize about how to make so many aspects of our professional and personal lives better and improve our collective quality of life. In doing so, we must include everyone from every background and community in the solution.