RTS Cambridge Convention: Broadcasters need to improve the diversity of their employees, Ofcom said today, unveiling a major study of diversity in TV which says that women, ethnic-minority groups and disabled people are all under-represented in the industry.

Ofcom’s report, Diversity and equal opportunities in television, focuses on the main five broadcasters – the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky and Viacom (owner of Channel 5).

Ofcom concludes that broadcasters need to widen the range of talent working on and off screen, adding that too many people from minority groups struggle to get into television, creating a cultural disconnect between the people who make programmes and the millions who watch them.

Ofcom also called on broadcasters to urgently undertake better, more regular monitoring of the make-up of their employees.

The Ofcom report found that women are under-represented in the industry. Women account for 48% of employees across the five main broadcasters, versus 51% of the wider UK population.

Channel 4 has the highest number of female employees at 59%, followed by ITV (52%), Viacom (51%), the BBC (47%) and Sky (42%). Older men are generally more likely to be employed than older women. For example, 30% of men employed by the BBC are over the age of 50, compared to 22% of women – a difference of eight percentage points. The gap between the proportion of male and female employees aged 50 and over is much smaller at Channel 4 – 13% compared to 9%, a difference of four percentage points.

Women are even less well represented at senior levels. All of the main five broadcasters have more men in senior roles than women. Viacom has the highest proportion of women at senior management level (48%), followed by ITV at 42% and the BBC at 39%. Women occupy 36% of senior roles at Channel 4, while Sky has the lowest proportion of senior female employees at 31%.

Ethnic minority employees are also under-represented. Ethnic minority employees make up 12% of employees across the five main broadcasters, lower than the UK population average of 14%. 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%, and Viacom at 16%. The BBC ranks joint-third with Sky, at 13%, while the lowest proportion of people from an ethnic minority background is found at ITV, at 8%.

Ethnic-minority representation is even lower at senior levels. Across the BBC only 6% of senior roles are made up of people from an ethnic minority background, with only ITV having a lower proportion. Sky has the highest proportion of senior employees from an ethnic minority background (up to 15%), followed by Viacom and Channel 4 (up to 10%).

The Ofcom report also says that disabled people appear to be significantly under-represented. Just 3% of employees across the five main broadcasters self-report as disabled, compared to 18% of the UK population. Channel 4 has the highest proportion of disabled employees at 11%, and Viacom the lowest at 1%. Four per cent of the BBC’s employees are disabled. Sky provided disability information on only 2% of its employees, and ITV on fewer than half.

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 acknowledged that while some broadcasters are already taking action to improve diversity, a step-change across industry is required, with action needed by broadcasters.

The regulator said broadcasters should regularly measure and monitor the make-up of their workforce to a consistently high standard, capturing every relevant protected characteristic under the Equality Act, and all main job levels and functions.

Ofcom also said it expects broadcasters to set clear diversity targets so their employees more accurately reflect the society we live in.

Ofcom added that diversity transformation should be led from the top, and that chief executives should be accountable for delivery against their diversity targets.

Ofcom added that it intends to hold broadcasters to account on equal opportunities obligations. “We have examined in detail the arrangements each broadcast licensee has in place to promote equal employment opportunities, in line with their licence condition. Licensees we feel have inadequate arrangements in place will be asked to explain how they intend to meet their obligations.”

Staff Reporter

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