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Ofcom slams UK broadcasters over diversity

Jon Snow delivers his MacTaggart lecture in August

UK media regulator Ofcom has said the country’s broadcasters are making “woeful progress” at improving the diversity of employees at their organisations.

The regulator’s report, Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Television, focused on the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky and Viacom (owner of Channel 5) and found the lack of diversity was creating a “cultural disconnect” between viewers and programme makers.

It reflects sentiments from UK broadcaster Jon Show, who used his MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival last month to paint a picture of the “gulf” between the disadvantaged and those working in the media industry.

Ofcom’s report also found that many broadcasters “urgently” needed to undertake more regular monitoring of the make-up of their employees, although gender figures were readily available.

Ethnicity data was available for only 81% of industry workers and disability figures for just 69%, while no data was provided on the age of 43% of employees.

Despite this lack of data, Ofcom said it had found that disabled people appeared to be “significantly under-represented,” with just 3% of employees across the five main broadcasters, compared with 18% of the UK population.

Ethnic minority employees are also under-represented, the report said, making up 12% of employees across the five top broadcasters – lower than the UK population average of 14%. Ethnic minority representation is even lower at senior levels, the report added.

Ofcom said women are also under-represented, accounting for 48% of staff across the five main broadcasters versus 51% of the wider UK population.

Some of the findings chime with the first report from UK monitoring group The Creative Diversity Network (CDN), which is backed by leading broadcasters.

The CDN found the disabled were amongst those most under-represented on screen.

People from a BAME background, which the CDN estimated as 13% of the population, made up 21.5% of people on screen but less than 10% work behind the camera.

Sharon White

The findings also recorded the off-screen workforce was 55% female compared with a general workforce figure of 47%. The CDN did not offer conclusions on its figures because of the “modest level” of data collected.

Sharon White, Ofcom’s CEO, said her report “paints a worrying picture, with many broadcasters failing properly to monitor the make-up of their employees.”

White added that she was introducing measures to “help close the gap between the people making programmes and the many millions who watch them.”

These include ensuring broadcasters provide improved measurement figures, set clearer diversity targets and making chief executives “accountable for delivery against their diversity targets.”

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