Radio industry makes progress on diversity, but much further to go

31 July 2019

People from minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled people and women at a senior level remain under-represented in UK radio, according to Ofcom’s second major study of diversity in the radio industry.

Our annual report, Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Radio, covers nearly 9,000 staff across 16 companies, with particular focus on the three main radio broadcasters – the BBC, Bauer and Global.

It looks at workforce representation across the six protected characteristics outlined in the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, ethnicity, faith, gender and sexual orientation.

Our duty is to hold broadcasters to account on how they promote equal employment opportunities and training in relation to gender, racial group and disability.

Our study found:

  • Women are still under-represented at senior levels. Men occupy 63% of senior management positions, and 54% of middle or junior management roles - compared to 44% of non-management roles.
  • Six per cent of radio employees self-defined as disabled in 2018 – a slight increase since 2017 (5%), and far below the UK working average of 18%.
  • Representation of employees from minority ethnic backgrounds has not changed significantly since last year – 7% in 2018, versus 6% in 2017. This is well below the UK working average of 12%.

Vikki Cook, Ofcom’s Director of Content and Media Policy said: “There’s still a long way to go before the radio industry reflects the communities it broadcasts to around the UK.

“But broadcasters are making progress, and recognising the cultural and commercial benefits of a diverse workforce. We’ll keep supporting their efforts to draw on the best talent across the UK, so they can make even better radio and stay relevant to the widest possible audience.”

How the three major broadcasters compare

Gender disparity at the top. Although representation of women across radio is slightly higher than the UK labour market (51% v 47%), women continue to be under-represented at senior levels (36%). BBC Radio has the highest proportion of senior women (40%), followed by Bauer (36%) and Global (30%).

Disabled people are significantly under-represented. At 6%, the proportion of employees who self-define as disabled remains far below the UK working average of 18%. BBC Radio and Bauer (9%) have the highest proportion of disabled colleagues, with Bauer showing a marked increase from 3% in 2017. Global’s performance could not be reported meaningfully, as most of its employees chose not to disclose their disability status.

Poor representation of minority ethnic employees. At 7%, representation of people from minority ethnic groups remains far below the UK working average of 12%. BBC Radio (9%) and Global (8%) have the highest proportion of minority ethnic employees, while Bauer (3%) has the lowest. Gaps in Global’s data make it impossible to meaningfully report its performance here.

Ofcom's radio diversity podcast

An Ofcom podcast – Dialling up Diversity in Radio – accompanies today’s report. Vikki Cook, Ofcom’s Director of Content and Media Policy, chairs a frank discussion with Rhona Burns, Chief Operating Officer at BBC Radio; Will Harding, Chief Strategy Officer at Global; and Paul Keenan, President of Audio at Bauer Media Group.

These industry leaders explain their views on improving diversity, while a range of people from a variety of diverse backgrounds working across the industry share their experiences of succeeding in radio.

Maintaining momentum

Today’s report highlights progress by broadcasters towards broadening their workforces and promoting equal opportunities. We’re calling on the radio industry to build on this progress in the coming year, by:

  • Ensuring cultural change from the top. The diversity agenda and initiatives to improve representation must be led by senior management.
  • Tackling under-representation. There needs to be urgent focus on attracting disabled and minority ethnic talents, and helping women to progress to senior roles.
  • Understanding their workforce. Broadcasters should continue to improve how they measure the make-up of their workforce.
  • Setting clear goals. Broadcasters should set defined diversity targets with clear delivery dates to keep track of progress. The BBC is currently the only major radio broadcaster to have done this.
  • Tackling social mobility. Broadcasters must take an innovative approach to attract the widest pool of talent, regardless of people’s social backgrounds.