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 the industry’s diversity.
Ofcom’s 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 an Ofcom podcast the BBC, Bauer and Global.
It examines workforce representation across the six protected characteristics outlined in the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, ethnicity, faith, gender and sexual orientation.
Ofcom’s duty is to hold broadcasters to account on their arrangements, under their licences, to promote equal employment opportunities and training in relation to gender, racial group and disability.
The study finds that:
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%.
While representation is slow to improve, today’s report reveals a marked improvement in the amount of diversity data collected by the radio industry over the last year.
Nine major broadcasters provided data on all six characteristics in 2018, up from just two in 2017. Around twice as many are now measuring their employees’ age and religion or belief. And where just two major radio companies recorded data on sexual orientation in 2017, 10 did so in 2018.
But gaps remain. There is still no data for 10% of radio industry employees about their racial group; 13% about disability; 15% about sexual orientation; and 15% about religion or belief. The problem is more acute for industry freelancers; 25% of gender data remains missing; 44% for racial group and 58% for disability.
As the radio regulator for the whole UK, its nations and regions, Ofcom must also reflect the society we serve. We too have further to go in meeting our internal targets, broadening the diversity of our boards and advisory committees, and improving our own data.
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.”
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 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 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.
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.
Today’s report identifies tangible progress by broadcasters towards broadening their workforces and promoting equal opportunities. Ofcom is calling on the radio industry to build on this progress in the coming year, by: