The UK’s television industry is strongly skewed towards people from privately-educated backgrounds, according to Ofcom research on the sector’s diversity.
Our annual Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Television report  examines the social and economic background of the television industry for the first time this year. It also reports on companies’ progress in improving the representation of workers including women, disabled people and those from minority ethnic backgrounds.
The research helps Ofcom meet its legal duty, set by Parliament, to promote equality of employment opportunity in the broadcasting sector.
Fourteen major broadcasters – including the BBC, Channel 4 and Viacom (which owns Channel 5) – provided Ofcom with initial information on the social and economic diversity of their organisations. This included the type of schools attended by industry employees, and the occupations and qualifications held by their parents when they were growing up.
This has allowed Ofcom to draw an initial picture of social diversity in UK television, based on responses from 10,188 industry employees – or around 30% of the UK-based television workforce:
Last year, we were encouraged by broadcasters’ progress on diversity, particularly in further improving their understanding of the make-up of their workforces. But while we have more information than we did three years ago, there has been no discernible change in the TV industry’s diversity profile.
Sharon White, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said: “We want a TV industry where differences are celebrated, and the door is open to all. But the evidence shows that the dial towards full inclusivity is not shifting quickly enough, and we cannot allow progress to stall.
“Broadcasters must redouble their efforts to understand their workforces, examine what is working, and strive harder to attract the most talented people into television – whatever their characteristics or backgrounds.”
By 2020, Ofcom is calling on the television industry to:
Ofcom is also taking a range of steps in these areas, including:
We will also be convening an industry event to refresh thinking on diversity and share best practice.
1. Alongside the main summary report (PDF, 2.4 MB), we have published:
Ofcom’s online diversity hub provides further information on the methodology behind our reports, including the legal basis for requiring this information from broadcasters.
2. Fourteen broadcasters, to a greater or lesser extent, provided socio-economic data: BBC Global News Limited, BBC UK Public Television Services, BBC Worldwide Limited, Bloomberg L.P., Blue Ocean International Media Group Limited, Channel 4, Immediate Media TV Limited, Media Liberty Ltd, Phoenix Chinese News and Entertainment Limited, S4C, Shorts International Limited , Turner Broadcasting, TV Today Network, Viacom International Media Networks.
3. Of the 10,188 employees for which we have socio-economic data, most worked at the BBC (8,370, or 60% of its employees), Viacom (814, or 65% of its workforce) or Channel 4 (694 or 72% of its staff). ITV and Sky were not able to provide any social mobility data at this stage.
4. National average sourced from The Sutton Trust.
5. We asked about the occupation of the main earner in the employees’ household when the employees were aged 14. This is the broadcasters’ agreed primary indicator of the social mobility of employees, as recommended by The Bridge Group. Professional categories include roles such as senior manager, teacher, nurse, social worker, musician, police officer, accountant, solicitor, medical practitioner and scientist.
6. Across the UK industry, broadcasters now collect data on the ethnicity of 89% of employees, up from 88% last year; the religion or belief of 59%, up from 56% last year; the age of 88%, up from 86% last year; the sexual orientation of 65%, up from 59% last year; the disability of 71%, up from 69% last year; and the gender of 100%, up from 99% last year. Despite these efforts by broadcasters to close the data gaps we still lack information on age, sexual orientation and religion or belief for a large proportion of industry employees. So we have written to the Government requesting new powers to collect information on these characteristics.
7. Viacom has the highest proportion of employees from minority ethnic backgrounds at 20%, followed by Channel 4 at 19% (both up 1pp on last year). Like last year, 15% and 13% of the employees at Sky and the BBC respectively are from a minority ethnic background. The proportion of employees from minority ethnic backgrounds increased by 1pp at ITV to 10%.
8. Ofcom’s Diversity Panel was established in March 2019. Its members are: Ellen E Jones, writer, journalist and TV critic; Adrian Lester OBE, actor; Ian Manborde, Equalities and Diversity Officer at Equity; Anjani Patel, Head of Diversity at Pact; David Proud, actor; and Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE, current Chair of the Radio Academy.