Radio industry must tune in to diversity

13 June 2018

Ethnic minorities, disabled people and women are all under-represented in the UK’s radio industry, according to new research by Ofcom.

Ofcom’s report, Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Radio, highlights the scale of the diversity challenge facing the sector. It is based on data from 16 organisations with more than 20 employees, including three of the main radio broadcasters – the BBC, Bauer, and Global. It covers more than 9,000 employees across the radio industry.

It found:

  • ethnic minority employees make up 6% of the radio workforce;
  • 5% of radio roles go to people who consider themselves disabled
  • women occupy 37% of senior management roles in radio; and
  • many radio companies don’t fully understand the wider make-up of their workforce, collecting too little data, or none at all.

The research also showed women are under-represented at senior levels. Female employees occupy 37% of senior management roles across the industry.

Ethnic minority employees are also under-represented, with people from ethnic minority groups making up 6% of the industry, and also 6% of senior management positions – far below the UK population average of 14%.

More than a third of the industry does not ask about disability. Disability data is missing for 38% of the radio industry’s workforce, and so it is difficult to draw absolute conclusions. The data we did receive indicates that 5% of employees say they are disabled, compared to 18% of the UK population.

Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “Radio is a powerful, personal medium, with an unrivalled ability to inspire loyalty and speak directly to its audience.

“Our radio industry must reflect the breadth of modern society and offer listeners engaging shows that speak directly to their lives and experiences. And to do this effectively broadcasters must take further action to attract a wider range of talent, both on and off air”

Our report shows some radio organisations have started to make progress in improving representation, introducing diversity and equal opportunities initiatives.

Valuable lessons can also be drawn from grassroots community radio stations, which are embracing diversity and inclusion through innovative training, recruitment and editorial initiatives.

But too many broadcasters are failing to fully understand or address the diversity problem, and industry-wide action is needed. Ofcom expects all radio broadcasters to:

  • regularly measure and monitor the make-up of their workforce to a high standard;
  • set clear diversity targets so their employees more accurately reflect modern society; and
  • ensure diversity transformation is led from the top, with chief executives accountable for delivery against their targets.

To help support industry action on diversity, Ofcom will:

  • work with radio broadcasters to help improve the quality of their workforce data and develop their equal opportunities arrangements;
  • chair industry discussions on diversity and related issues such as social mobility, to share experiences and effective practices; and
  • further develop our diversity guidance for broadcasters, informed by our ongoing monitoring of broadcasters’ progress.