Broadcasters need to employ more minority workers, warns Ofcom

Ofcom has told broadcasters that they need to improve diversity
Ofcom has told broadcasters that they need to improve diversity
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Broadcasters must improve the diversity of their employees, Ofcom has warned, as a major study of diversity in television finds that women, ethnic-minority groups and disabled people are all under-represented in the industry.

The watchdog said that broadcasters should regularly measure and monitor the make-up of their workforce and set clear diversity targets - as well as ensuring that diversity policies are “embedded from the top down”.

It warned that it would tackle broadcasters which did not appear to promote equal employment opportunities and said it would take enforcement action against broadcasters who failed to provide required data to Ofcom on a regular basis.

A total of 57 broadcasting firms are already being pursued by the regulator for failing to provide data in time for this report.

Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, said: “Television is central to the UK’s cultural landscape, society and creative economy, and we believe that creativity in broadcasting thrives on diversity of thinking.

“Today’s report paints a worrying picture, with many broadcasters failing properly to monitor the make-up of their employees. We’re announcing a range of measures to help close the gap between the people making programmes, and the many millions who watch them.”

Ofcom added that it had written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to request an extension to the list of protected characteristics in sections 27 and 337 of the Communication Act 2003, which would allow them to require broadcasters to provide data on a broader range of characteristics, rather than sections being voluntary.

The study looked at Britain’s five major broadcasters - BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Viacom, the owner of Channel 5 - and found that women accounted for 48 per cent of the total workforce, against 51 per cent of the population as a whole and held just 39 per cent of senior roles. Channel 4 has the highest number of female employees at 59 per cent, followed by ITV. Older men are generally more likely to be employed than older women.

Those from a black, African or ethnic minority background made up 12 per cent of workers, and disabled people just three per cent, despite accounting for 14 per cent and 18 per cent of the general population respectively. Two of the five main broadcasters employ a higher proportion of people from an ethnic minority background than the UK average: Channel 4 at 18 per cent, and Viacom at 16 per cent. The BBC ranks joint-third with Sky, at 13 per cent, while the lowest proportion of people from an ethnic minority background is found at ITV, at eight per cent. Meanwhile, across the BBC, just six per cent of senior roles are made up of people from an ethnic minority background, with only ITV having a lower proportion.

Ms White added: “It is disappointing. We would want the BBC to lead the way rather than be in the middle of the pack.”

A spokesman for the BBC said the report’s figures were from 2016, and didn’t take into account more up-to-date statistics from 2017, which showed that the corporation had increased its representation.

He added that the BBC is committed to “leading the way” in diversity among its staff, but acknowledged that the industry still had “more to do”.

The report comes after the BBC came under fire for just a third of its highest-paid stars being women.