Report calls for more action on diversity from broadcasters

Women, ethnic-minority groups and disabled people are all under-represented in broadcasting industry, according to a report by Ofcom.

Ofcom’s report, Diversity and equal opportunities in television, focuses on the main five broadcasters – the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky and Viacom (owner of Channel 5).

It says too many people from minority groups struggle to get into television, creating “a cultural disconnect” between the people who make programmes and the millions who watch them.

The report finds that many broadcasters urgently need to undertake better, more regular monitoring of the make-up of their employees. Though most provided Ofcom with information on employees’ gender, the television industry could offer ethnicity data for only 81% of its workers and disability figures for just 69%.

Broadcasters provided even less information for other characteristics, says the report: they provided no data on the age of 43% of employees, provided no information on the sexual orientation of 62% of employees and no data on religion or belief for 67% of employees.

It found women account for 48% of employees across the five main broadcasters, versus 51% of the wider UK population. Channel 4 has the highest number of female employees at 59%, followed by ITV (52%), Viacom (51%), the BBC (47%) and Sky (42%). Older men are generally more likely to be employed than older women. For example, 30% of men employed by the BBC are over the age of 50, compared to 22% of women. The gap between the proportion of male and female employees aged 50 and over is much smaller at Channel 4 – 13% compared to 9%.

All of the main five broadcasters have more men in senior roles than women. Viacom has the highest proportion of women at senior management level (48%), followed by ITV at 42% and the BBC at 39%. Women occupy 36% of senior roles at Channel 4, while Sky has the lowest proportion of senior female employees at 31%.

The report also found that ethnic minority employees make up 12% of employees across the five main broadcasters, lower than the UK population average of 14% with even lower representation at senior level.  Across the BBC only 6% of senior roles are made up of people from an ethnic minority background, with only ITV having a lower proportion. Just 3% of employees across the five main broadcasters self-report as disabled, compared to 18% of the UK population.

The report calls on broadcasters to measure and monitor the make-up of their workforce consistently and set clear diversity targets. It also calls for chief executives to be accountable for delivery against their diversity targets.

It adds that the BBC should be leading the way as the nation’s main broadcaster. The BBC has set targets for 2020, saying it wants its employees to comprise 50% women, 8% disabled people, 8% lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people and 15% people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.

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