Radio industry must tune in to diversity

13 June 2018

  • Ethnic minorities, disabled people and women all under-represented in UK radio
  • Many broadcasters unaware of the wider make-up of their workforce

Ethnic minorities, disabled people and women are all under-represented in the UK’s radio industry, according to a major new study revealing a lack of diversity across its workforce.

Ofcom’s report, Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Radio, reveals for the first time the scale of the diversity challenge facing the sector. It covers 16 organisations with more than 20 employees, and focuses on three of the main radio broadcasters – the BBC, Bauer, and Global.[1]

The study spans nearly 9,000 staff across the industry, and finds that:

  • 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 [2]; and
  • many radio companies do not fully understand the wider make-up of their workforce, collecting too little data, or none at all. Among the 16 companies surveyed, just six provided data on their employees’ age; four on religion or belief; and two on sexual orientation.

Although all organisations provided Ofcom with information on employees’ gender, only 11 of the 16 submitted ethnicity and disability data. Even then, many had gaps in the information they provided. As such, the radio industry failed to report on the ethnicity of 9% of its workforce, while disability data was missing for 38% of employees.[3]

The BBC offered the most complete set of data. It was the only organisation to provide full or partial information across all six diversity characteristics.[4]

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.”

How broadcasters compare

Women are under-represented at senior levels. Female employees occupy 37% of senior management roles across the industry. The BBC has the highest proportion of senior women (40%), followed by Bauer (39%) and Global (34%). Editorial roles at the commercial broadcasters are particularly male-dominated: 81% of programming positions at Bauer, and 67% of positions at Global, are filled by men – compared with 46% at the BBC.

Ethnic minority employees are under-represented. People from ethnic minority groups make up 6% of the industry, and also 6% of senior management positions – far below the UK population average of 14%. The BBC has the highest proportion of employees from an ethnic minority backgrounds at 8%, followed by Bauer and Global both at 6%. Ethnic-minority representation is generally higher in radio programming roles (11%), although at Bauer, this stands at just 7%, compared with 19% at Global and 10% at the BBC.

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. Eight per cent of BBC workers, and 3% of Bauer’s, consider themselves disabled. Global did not submit data for disability.

Industry-wide action needed

Today’s report shows that some radio organisations have started to make progress in improving representation, introducing company-wide 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 overall, 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 consistently high standard, capturing every relevant protected characteristic under the Equality Act;
  • 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 diversity targets.

As part of our workplan to support industry action on diversity, Ofcom will:

  • work with radio broadcasters to help them to 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 (PDF, 224.9 KB) for broadcasters, informed by our ongoing monitoring of broadcasters’ progress.

Today’s report follows a similar analysis of diversity in UK television, which will be updated in the autumn. Both are part of Ofcom’s monitoring programme to ensure that UK broadcasters are held to account on their equal opportunities obligations.[5]

Watch: Radio industry figures respond to Ofcom’s findings

Notes to editors

1. Bauer Radio owns national stations such as Kiss, Magic and Absolute. The BBC runs 10 UK-wide domestic radio stations as well as services for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and English regions. Global Media & Entertainment owns national stations such as Gold, Heart and Classic FM. Together, these groups make up over 80% of radio-industry employees for whom we received data. The BBC represents just over half of all employees reported on (4,527). This is followed by Global (1,836) and Bauer (746). All radio organisations licensed by Ofcom, authorised to broadcast for more than 31 days per year and with more than 20 employees, were required to respond with data on the make-up of their workforce. Our report is based on anonymised data for 8,879 staff working at 16 UK broadcasters who met this threshold for inclusion. We required broadcasters to provide data on the three characteristics where we have powers to do so: gender; racial group; and disability. In addition, we requested data on other ‘protected characteristics’ in the Equality Act 2010: age; sexual orientation; and religion or belief.

2. In general, representation of women across the radio industry is in line with the wider population (at 51%). Global has the highest proportion of female employees, at 57%, followed by Bauer (54%), and the BBC (49%).

3. Radio organisations provided even less information for other voluntary diversity characteristics: overall, they provided no data on the age of 31% of employees; no information on the sexual orientation of 60% of employees; and no data on religion or belief for 47% of employees.

4. Bauer provided some information on four characteristics – gender, ethnicity, disability and age - while Global only provided information relating to gender and ethnicity.

5. Under their licences, broadcasters are required to have arrangements to promote equal employment opportunities and training in relation to gender, racial group and disability.

6. This table shows how the main radio organisations compare:

Profile of the radio industry by protected characteristic