Producer speaking to presenters on a TV studio set

Broadcasters facing diverse talent drain

Published: 7 October 2021
Last updated: 16 March 2023
  • Female employees more likely to leave TV and radio industries
  • Proportion of TV employees who are disabled projected to fall over next five years
  • Minority representation improves – but remains poor at senior levels
  • Ofcom calls on industry to focus on retaining and developing diverse talent

More people are leaving the TV and radio industries than joining, Ofcom has found, with broadcasters facing a worrying loss of diverse talent.

Ofcom’s five-year look at Diversity and Equal Opportunities in UK Broadcasting finds that broadcasters are struggling to retain talent in the aftermath of the pandemic, with more women in particular leaving the broadcasting business than joining.

TV and radio firms now have a much better understanding of the makeup of their workforce, and representation of minority groups has generally improved in the last five years. But the lack of diversity among senior decision makers remains significant, and disabled people continue to be underrepresented across the industry.

So Ofcom is today calling on broadcasters collectively to place much greater focus on retaining and progressing senior, diverse talent.

Why this matters

Having a workforce that represents UK society helps broadcasters to create innovative, imaginative and authentic TV and radio – programmes that reflect the lives and experiences of their whole audience. Broadcasters have an obligation, as a condition of their licences, to take measures 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.

Broadcasters have made progress hiring a wider range of talent. For example, there are twice as many people working in radio from minority-ethnic backgrounds as there were three years ago.

But for the first time, more people are leaving the industry than joining, particularly women, while disabled people remain significantly underrepresented. And because companies have focused on entry-level recruitment, there still isn’t enough diverse talent in senior roles.

So we’re calling on broadcasters to slow the revolving door and focus on retaining and progressing talented people from all walks of life.

Vikki Cook, Ofcom’s Director of Broadcasting Policy

Five-year picture

This is Ofcom’s fifth report on diversity in broadcasting and reflects on progress made over the last five years. It reveals:

Broadcasters are more representative of the UK’s ethnic diversity. In 2017/18, minority ethnic groups made up just 6% of the radio workforce. This has now increased to 10%, though still below the UK working population benchmark of 12%. In TV, 16% of staff are from minority-ethnic backgrounds, up from 13% over the same period.

Serious lack of diversity among senior decision-makers. Broadcasters appear to have focused on entry-level recruitment at the expense of retaining and progressing their diverse talent. Disabled people, for example, make up only 6% of senior managers. The situation is more promising for minority ethnic colleagues in TV, who make up nearly a fifth of all those promoted – although it is not clear whether this is to senior management positions.

The UK’s disabled population is woefully underrepresented in the broadcasting industry. Despite encouraging initiatives in recent years, both TV and Radio are still reporting industry-wide representation at 7% -less than half the UK benchmark of 19% in 2020/21.

Socio-economic diversity is also lacking, both for the lack of data and what the available data shows. Where we have data, it shows that TV employees are almost twice as likely to have had parents in professional occupations (59% compared to the UK benchmark of 33%) and to have attended private school (13% compared with a UK average of 7%).

We know more than ever about the makeup of the broadcasting industry. Broadcasters cannot fix the diversity problem unless its fully understood, and they are now providing Ofcom with much more data. In 2016/17, disability information was missing for around a third of industry employees. Today, we know the disability status of 76% of TV, and 85% of radio, employees.

Next steps

We expect broadcasters to work together – and with their production partners – to create a more inclusive sector for everyone. That includes a greater focus on retention as well as recruitment. We are calling on broadcasters to:

  • further improve data collection – including on promotions;
  • report the success or failure of diversity initiatives more transparently;
  • engage meaningfully with their staff networks; and
  • consider setting retention targets.

To lead the diversity conversation and support broadcasters and their employees, Ofcom is this week hosting All In – an event to help broadcasters work together on broadening their workforces and sharing what works.

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