Comic Relief set to drop celebrity-led appeals following backlash
According to BBC News, films in which white celebrities are filmed promoting on the behalf of charities are said to be getting the boot, with new campaigns instead being fronted by those that the charity intends to help. The change follows backlash that white-celebrity led campaigns to promote ‘poverty tourism’ and rely on unfair stereotypes.
Past campaigns, such as the one fronted by Ed Sheeran in Liberia last year for Comic Relief, have been slated by those such as MP David Lammy. He criticised the campaign in a film for BBC’s Daily Politics for diluting the individual identities of African nations and presenting them as stereotyped "victims to be pitied", stripping away their ability to speak for themselves in favour of the white saviour narrative.
The Ed Sheeran fronted campaign even won a Radi-Aid Award from an aid watchdog for the “most offensive” campaign of the year, as the judges accused it of unabashed “poverty tourism”. Chief executive of Sports Relief, Liz Warner, responded to the backlash in the Guardian:
“You’ll see the films we put into Sports Relief are a step towards that, towards change. People talking the first person in their own voices, with local heroes and heroines talking to us about the work they’re doing. You won’t see a celebrity standing in front of people talking about them. You’ll see people talking for themselves.”
Warner went on to say that they would still be working alongside celebrities, as it was part of the “DNA” of the charity, though was reevaluating how they should best be featured, noting that celebrity appearances were a ‘sure-bet’ when it comes to bringing in funding. David Lammy is “pleased” with the announcement and has said that he hopes future charity campaign films will “empower African people and amplify their voices.”
Sports Relief, which aired on the 23rd March, brought in £38 million on the night, the lowest in a decade; this could be down to a number of factors, not just a change in algorithm, but also the recent Oxfam scandal that may have shaken public faith in donating to large charities.