Radio industry makes progress on diversity, but much further to go

31 July 2019

  • Ethnic minorities, disabled people and women in senior roles remain under-represented
  • But radio industry more aware of the make-up of its workforce, as diversity data gap narrows
  • Senior leaders from the BBC, Bauer and Global speak frankly about diversity in Ofcom podcast

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.[1]

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:

  • Women continue to be under-represented at senior levels; men still occupy 63% of senior management positions, and 54% of middle or junior management roles – compared to 44% of non-management roles.
  • Six-per-cent of radio employees self-defined as disabled in 2018 – a marginal increase since 2017 (5%), and far below the UK working average of 18%.

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%.

Data gap narrows

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.”

How the three major broadcasters compare

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.[2]

Ofcom's radio diversity podcast

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.[3]

Maintaining momentum

Today’s report identifies tangible progress by broadcasters towards broadening their workforces and promoting equal opportunities.[4] Ofcom is calling on the radio industry to build on this progress in the coming year, by:

  • Ensuring cultural change from the top. The diversity agenda and practical initiatives to improve representation must be led strategically by senior management.
  • Tackling under-representation. There needs to be urgent focus on attracting disabled and minority-ethnic talents, and helping women to progress to senior roles.
  • Understanding their workforce. Broadcasters should continue to improve their measurement of the make-up of their workforce, capturing all protected characteristics.
  • Setting clear goals. Broadcasters should set defined diversity targets with clear delivery dates to assess progress. The BBC is currently the only major radio broadcaster to have done so.
  • Tackling social mobility. Broadcasters must take an innovative approach to attract the widest pool of talent, regardless of people’s social backgrounds.


  1. The report covers the 2018 calendar year. It comprises the main report (PDF, 13.8 MB), an ‘in-focus’ report (PDF, 600.3 KB) on the three main broadcasters (BBC Radio, Bauer and Global), a wider industry report (PDF, 355.4 KB) including data on some of the smaller radio broadcasters, and the methodology (PDF, 366.7 KB).
  2. Global, as the UK’s leading commercial radio group, needs to improve the quality of some of its data collection. We recognise that it has improved in 2018, collecting data on all mandatory and voluntary characteristics. We also acknowledge that employees are fully entitled not to disclose their data to employers. But given the commitment Global has made to improve its data collection processes, we would like to see Global work with its employees to create a culture which encourages greater disclosure.
  3. Steve Austins (Freelance), Aryana Vashist (Producer/Presenter, BBC Radio Solent/Unity 101), Erika North (Presenter, BBC Radio Kent), Claire Kinnard (Presenter, Tay FM), Henrie Kwishue (Presenter, Represent Radio).
  4. Radio broadcasters have taken a range of steps in the last year, including:
    • senior management-led diversity and inclusion strategies;
    • measures to increase the recruitment and progression of employees with specific protected characteristics;
    • fair recruitment practices;
    • new employee networks; and
    • work experience or training schemes.