BBC set to weed out ‘middle class’ bias to increase diversity

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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All new employees at the BBC are to be asked about their socio-economic background as part of a strategy to move away from its “elitist” reputation.

Questions will include family income, whether they went to a state or private school, had free school dinners or were the first in their family to attend university.

The move comes after a 2014 report by the government’s social mobility and child poverty commission found senior staff came “disproportionately from a narrow range of backgrounds” with more than a quarter having attended public schools.

The corporation, which has faced growing pressure from ministers to include staff from under-represented backgrounds, says the questionnaires will allow it to assess if its range of staff reflects modern day Britain.

The anonymous, voluntary questionnaires ensures recruiters cannot see a candidate’s name or university education and is aimed at overcoming “unconscious bias.”

The recruitment technique has already been used by companies such as KPMG and HSBC.

Potential staff from under-represented background will also be offered advice on writing CVs and interview techniques.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “Almost half of our workforce is made up of women and the proportion of our workforce who are black, Asian and other ethnic minority is at an all-time high.

“We’ll continue doing what works but also develop new and innovative ideas to do even better.”

Last week the BBC pledged by 2020 women would make up 50 per cent of its on-screen workforce, with 41.3 per cent of leadership roles.

A BBC source said: “We are already making a real difference to diversity on and off air but we’ve been clear there is more to do. Nothing should be a barrier to thriving at the BBC whether it is where you were born, what school you went to, the colour of your skin, your gender or a disability.

“If we’re going to serve audiences even better and be the creative powerhouse for the UK at home and abroad, we need the best people working for us and a workforce that reflects the many communities that exist in the UK – that’s what these plans will ensure.”

Natasha Morris, legal equality officer for the National Union of Journalists, said: “The NUJ has been working with the BBC on improving diversity within the organisation to better reflect the society in which we live and work.

“It is good that the BBC recognise that there are problems, but it is too early to say whether these latest proposals will lead to greater diversity and representation both in front of the camera and behind it.”