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UK TV falling short on disability targets

UK broadcasters will be seven years late in hitting targets for the representation of disabled people off-screen across the country’s TV industry, according to a new report.

Deborah Williams

The findings come following the launch in 2018 of the Doubling Disability cross-party initiative, spearheaded by non-profit body The Creative Diversity Network (CDN) with support from the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky, ViacomCBS and independent producers’ association Pact.

At the centre of the initiative was a commitment by the UK’s main broadcasters to double the percentage of disabled people working in off-screen roles across the TV industry by the end of 2020, later extended to the end of 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But according to the latest data, there has been only a small increase of 0.9% in the proportion of disabled people in off-screen TV production roles, from 4.5% in 2017 to 5.4% in 2020.

If the same rate of progress is maintained, it will be 2028 at the earliest before the Doubling Disability target of 9% is met, according to CDN, and the industry will not be representative of the UK working-age population in terms of disability until 2041 at the earliest.

“It has been a year that has tested the industry and its ability to adjust to changes both cultural and financial,” said CDN executive director Deborah Williams.

“As well as adapting admirably to working in the pandemic, the new measures that have been put in place for better race and ethnicity representation are to be applauded. So I’m hopeful that the message about disability will also be embraced.”

The CDN’s latest report puts forward a series of recommendations to help the industry improve its efforts in this area.

“This sobering report highlights the urgent work needed to improve disability inclusion,” said ITV group director of diversity and inclusion Ade Rawcliffe. “Accelerating progress with increased investment, clear actions and measurable outcomes is a key priority.”


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