Anyone questioning the troubling lack of diversity at this year's Oscars can look to TV for the answer. Where #OscarsSoWhite has captured public imagination and indignation, an alternative hashtag could easily emerge, because #TVsoDiverse.

In the story so far, this year's Oscar nominations lacked representation of persons of any other ethnicity than caucasian, causing a social media campaign to erupt accusing Hollywood of being white male dominated. The Academy Awards ceremony takes place on Monday, New Zealand time.

In stark contrast to the movies, recent on-demand television shows with diverse casts and stories have gained recognition at the year's most prestigious television awards. It's another development which is advancing the case for the high quality of streaming TV shows which is seeing them increasingly becoming 'the new movie' as viewers sit down to binge-watch their favourite series rather than choose a movie.

Indeed, celebrated actor and two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman recently noted, "I think right now television is the best that it's ever been. And I think that it's the worst that film has ever been - in the 50 years that I've been doing it, it's the worst."


While Hoffman was lamenting the poor production values of many movies, by contrast a substantial number of television shows have substantially upped the ante. That's reflected not only in terms of quality content, but also diversity - and this is a contributing factor to TV streaming emerging as the pinnacle of the visual art form.

Recent Screen Actors Guild Awards saw actors Idris Elba (Luther), Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) and Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent) among the talent recognised, with Elba commenting, "Welcome to diverse TV".

Luther, written in New Zealand by Neil Cross, also netted Elba a Critics Choice Award last month and was a nominee at the NAACP Image Awards, as is savage corporate comedy, House of Lies.

From TV show Mr Robot. Christian Slater (left) as Mr. Robot and Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson. Photo / David Giesbrecht / USA Network
From TV show Mr Robot. Christian Slater (left) as Mr. Robot and Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson. Photo / David Giesbrecht / USA Network

Last month, the Critics' Choice Awards awarded Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek for his work on hacker thriller Mr. Robot, and Jeffrey Tambor for his portrayal of a transitioning transgender woman on Transparent.

The contrast between the movies and TV is increasingly apparent, with women and minorities more likely to be found as leads in shows created for digital platforms; female executives are also notably more prominent in TV than film.

READ MORE: Oscar predictions: What will win and what should win

In a recent appearance in the British Parliament, Idris Elba made clear the value of diversity, in a lesson which transcends TV and the movies: "I'm not here to talk about black people, I'm here to talk about diversity. Diversity in the modern world is more than just skin colour - it's gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, social background, and most important of all, as far as I'm concerned - diversity of thought. Because if you have genuine diversity of thought among people making TV and film, then you won't accidentally shut out any of the groups I just mentioned."

TV - and especially new streaming TV productions - are taking the lead on diversity. And in my opinion the quality of TV is now challenging film for supremacy as a visual art form. The TV audience has never had it so good.

Kym Niblock is the chief executive of Lightbox.