TV broadcasters must maintain momentum on diversity

27 September 2018

UK television broadcasters are collecting more information on the make-up of their workforces than ever before, helping to better understand and address under-representation across the TV industry, Ofcom has found.

Last year, Ofcom told broadcasters to improve monitoring of their workforces, to identify under-represented groups and help to tackle a lack of diversity in UK television.

Our report published today, Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Television 2018, looks at progress made over the past 12 months. It focuses on the five main UK broadcasters – the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky and Viacom (which owns Channel 5).

Having a more representative workforce helps broadcasters to create innovative, imaginative and authentic television that reflects modern Britain and the lives and experiences of their whole audience. Broadcasters have an obligation to promote equality of opportunity in employment - this also helps people to work in broadcasting who otherwise might not have a chance to do so.

Better data, but gaps remain

TV broadcasters now collect data on the ethnicity of 88% of their staff, up from 83% last year. They measure the age of 86% of employees, and the sexual orientation of 59% – up from 71% and 49% respectively a year ago. The religion or belief of 56% of staff is also captured in today’s report, up from 41% a year ago.

However, information on employees’ disability status hasn’t improved, with 31% of staff unaccounted for – similar to last year. Because of this, it is difficult to know how well disabled people are represented.

We expect broadcasters to keep improving data, particularly in areas where it remains poor, and we will work with them to help address this.

There is much more to do

Despite the improvements in broadcasters’ collection of data, there is still more that needs to be done on diversity. We found:

  • disabled people remain significantly under-represented;
  • minority ethnic representation is yet to improve at senior levels;
  • there has only been a small increase in women at senior levels;
  • more older men than older women are employed; and
  • there is missing data on employees’ religion or belief.

Full findings in these areas are available in the main report.

At a recent diversity summit meeting hosted by Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Sharon White, the heads of all the major TV broadcasters committed to driving change across their organisations. During the last year, the broadcasters have adopted a range of schemes and initiatives to boost diversity and inclusion, which are detailed in Ofcom’s in-focus report.

We expect this work to be reflected in workforce data over time, as new processes are embedded and job opportunities arise through staff turnover.

Vikki Cook, Ofcom Director of Standards and Audience Protection, said: “We’re encouraged that major broadcasters understand the need to attract people who may not feel they can make a career in TV. Senior people across TV are leading work to widen the breadth of talent, on and off screen. This is in broadcasters’ interests, because it helps them make programmes that reflect the whole UK.

“But our report shows how far there is to go. We expect broadcasters to build on momentum in the last year, and to keep improving their monitoring and staff diversity in the coming months.”

Next steps

To maintain momentum in tackling under-representation, Ofcom has set out further areas which broadcasters should focus on.

Data must improve. Broadcasters still need to collect more detailed information on their employees, instead of relying on broad categories which offer limited insight.

Disabled people must be better represented. Broadcasters need to adopt initiatives and long-term strategies to attract workers with different types of disability. These should include targeted recruitment and progression schemes, developed with disability charities and organisations.

Staff from minority ethnic backgrounds should be engaged. Building on existing work, broadcasters should consider focus groups to involve minority ethnic staff in developing strategies and schemes to improve representation and aid progression.

Targets must be clear and measurable. Broadcasters should ensure diversity targets are clearly defined, with a firm delivery date, so they can assess progress and reflect this in company strategy.

Collaboration on social mobility should continue. Ofcom has worked with the diversity heads of the UK’s major broadcasters to agree how best to measure the social and economic background of employees. Ofcom intends to report on the industry’s social and economic diversity next year.

Freelancers should be monitored as a priority. The industry should work together and give urgent attention to addressing a major gap in the monitoring of freelancers.