Sir Lenny Henry has been awarded a surprise fellowship of the Royal Television Society at its Programme Awards for his work in raising awareness of diversity in the industry.
The comedian and actor was also presented with the Judges’ Award in recognition of his commitment to increasing minority representation in the TV industry, with particular praise for his 2014 Bafta Television lecture on the topic.
Accepting the two awards, Sir Lenny said: “I’m so truly humbled by this, thank you so much for the fellowship.
“I’m truly hopeful that this award is a pan-industry acknowledgement that diversity must be at the heart of our industry now and most importantly in the future.”
He added: “I’m happy the RTS acknowledges the importance of diversity and I hope the BBC and the Government accept the fundamental role of diversity by writing it into the charter.”
Aside from diversity issues, Labour peer Joan Bakewell criticised the industry for ageism as she accepted the lifetime achievement award.
As well as stating that “there are not enough older faces of women on the news or television”, Baroness Bakewell made an impassioned plea to save the BBC, which she called the “bedrock of this ecology (industry), flanked by Channel 4″.
She said: “There needs to be reform, there needs to be adjustment, there does not need to be abolition. I am asking you all to stand up for what we love and what began our lives in this world of television.”
Suranne Jones fought off stiff competition for the best female actor trophy for Doctor Foster, which was accepted on behalf of the new mother by her on-screen son Tom Taylor, while Sir Anthony Hopkins won best actor for his role in BBC Two’s The Dresser.
The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies followed up its Bafta success with two awards, scooping the prize for drama serial and the drama writer gong for Peter Morgan, the man behind Rush and The Queen.
Channel 4 swept the board in several categories, winning best drama series for comedy No Offence and single drama for Coalition, which starred Mark Dexter and Bertie Carvel as David Cameron and Nick Clegg respectively in the political drama.
Its hit comedy Catastrophe claimed two of its three nominations, bagging scripted comedy and comedy writer for Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, while Michaela Coel, creator and star of E4′s Chewing Gum, won the inaugural breakthrough prize.
In the ultimate soap showdown, Emmerdale beat rivals EastEnders and Coronation Street for the soap and continuing drama award.
Popular presenting duo Ant and Dec kept a tight hold of their crown as they took home the award for best entertainment performance for the trio of I’m A Celebrity, Britain’s Got Talent and Saturday Night Takeaway, 21 years after they were first recognised at the awards.
Other winners included David Coulthard, Reggie Yates and Judge Rinder as the best of British TV was celebrated by the industry.