House of Commons Library

Diversity in Broadcasting

Published Tuesday, April 12, 2016

This briefing paper explores the current on and off screen diversity in public service broadcasting, including policies in place to improve the diversity of the television workforce. It also summarises the available statistics.

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Workforce data and surveys suggest that for some time minority groups have been under-represented both on and off screen within the television industry. The main public service broadcasters now all claim to be working towards increasing the diversity of both on screen representations in broadcasting and the diversity of their overall workforce, especially in terms of ethnicity, gender, disability and sexuality.

Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator is required to promote equality of opportunity amongst broadcasters, especially in relation to gender balance, people of different ethnicity and people with disabilities. They are also required to consider the different ethnic minorities within the UK.

Whilst the BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5 and Sky now all have policy statements in place surrounding diversity within their organisations, with some having specific targets for on screen representation and diversity amongst the workforce, other organisations remain critical of their efforts. Data suggests that representation of diverse and minority groups remains below national average in most categories.

Diversity in broadcasting has been an issue raised in Parliament on numerous occasions in the past, both through Parliamentary Questions, as well as in adjournment debates and a Westminster Hall debate held on a motion relating to Public Sector Broadcasting (Diversity) in July 2015. On Thursday 14 April 2016, a Backbench Business Debate will be held in the House of Commons Chamber on Diversity in the BBC. The full text of the motion is:

That this House notes the crucial cultural role the BBC plays in modern Britain; welcomes the fact that one of the public purposes outlined in the BBC Charter is to represent the UK, its nations, regions and communities; notes with concern that the last employment census in 2012 showed the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic people working in the UK creative media fell by 30.9 per cent between 2006 and 2012; believes that that a BBC target of 14.2 per cent for 2017 is insufficient; further notes that this target falls short of other UK broadcasters; and calls on the Government to recognise these failings when considering the BBC’s charter renewal and make representations to the BBC to ensure that the corporation is not failing in any of its diversity objectives, including but not limited to, delivering high quality programming which reflects modern Britain accurately and authentically and that the Corporation must advance equal opportunities to diversify and develop its workforce and senior leaders so that they better reflect audiences.

 This briefing paper explains the current position and examines the policy of the various public sector broadcasters in relation to diversity. It also provides the statistics showing the diversity of the workforce of four of the public sector broadcasters.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7553

Authors: Ben Politowski; Philip Ward; Noel Dempsey

Topics: Broadcasting, Equality

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