The Creative Diversity Network (CDN) has  released a major, independent review of the representation of disabled people across the UK’s television industry as part of its Doubling Disability campaign.

Doubling Disability was launched in 2018 with the involvement of disabled people’s organisations and is backed by the UK’s main broadcasters and other industry bodies. Today’s review builds on a previous research report and is being used as an evidence base to design activities carried out as part of the Doubling Disability campaign.

At the centre of the initiative is a commitment by the UK’s main broadcasters to double the percentage of disabled people working in off-screen roles across the UK television industry by the end of 2020, later extended to the end of 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Data held by the Diamond diversity monitoring system show there has been only a small increase of 0.9% in the proportion of disabled people in off-screen TV production roles from 4.5% in 2017 to 5.4% in 2020.

If the rate of progress from 2017 to 2020 is maintained, it will be 2028 at the earliest before the Doubling Disability target of 9% is met; and the industry will not be representative of the UK working age population in terms of disability until 2041 at the earliest.

The newly commissioned independent report also includes an analysis of a survey commissioned by CDN of disabled workers’ experiences within the television industry. The analysis highlights that many respondents described how initially positive views of their suitability for a job changed after they disclosed a condition or impairment, with 83% saying that they found conversations about raising access requirements with [potential] employers or clients uncomfortable. A widespread lack of understanding about the barriers faced by disabled people, issues such as how to take simple, reasonable measures to make workplaces more inclusive, and how to access available support from government and other providers was also identified.

Deborah Williams, CDN Executive Director said: “It has been a year that has tested the industry and its ability to adjust to changes both cultural and financial. As well as adapting admirably to working in the pandemic, the new measures that have been put in place for better race and ethnicity representation are to be applauded. So I’m hopeful that the message about disability will also be embraced: disabled workers are looking for more broadcasting work, which suggests the talent needed to fulfil the Doubling Disability commitment exists.”

“The report does however reveal that misguided attitudes are still throwing up barriers to entry and career progression at every level. The industry has shown that it is capable of responding to the need for change – the recommendations in our report provide some fresh ideas to support the industry to get back on track.”

The authors of the report make a number of recommendations that will require working together to bring about the change that all the CDN board members agree is necessary. To start this process CDN will prioritize the following:


Attitudes, awareness and knowledge about disability and disabled people working in TV broadcasting

  • Provide an industry-wide extended programme of role-specific disability equality training for employers and non-disabled workers in the industry, including training for managers of disabled talent, for all staff who might work on a project including freelancers.
  • Promote appropriate budgeting for training and development providers and review the format of their programmes to ensure they are accessible to disabled people including ensuring residential sessions do not create unnecessary barriers.


CDN activity

CDN will extend its Train the Trainer programme aligning with Screenskills for wider delivery.


Reasonable adjustments and Access to Work

  • Commission an evaluation and review of Disability Passports or similar documents. These should be co-created and developed with disabled people to establish good practice, any ethical issues and the impact on removing barriers to entry, retention and progression of disabled people.
  • Create standard and industry-specific simple guides to Access to Work for disabled employees.
  • Increase the urgency of work with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to raise awareness of the needs of disabled off-screen and on-screen employees, especially freelancers, in relation to Access to Work and other support payments.


CDN activity

CDN will work with broadcaster disability representatives to develop an industry-wide solution.


Entry, recruitment and retention

  • Directly involve disabled people in the continued design and implementation of paid apprenticeship, internships, start-up schemes and other entry routes into Broadcast schemes specifically targeted at disabled people.
  • Establish and support employee disability networks.


CDN activity

CDN will continue to liaise with member diversity and inclusion leads for regular updates about advancements in this area.


Miranda Wayland, BBC Head of Creative Diversity, said: “Over the last year, the BBC has boosted its commitment to disability representation and supported the progression of disabled talent through a number of initiatives such as BBC Elevate and The Writers Access Group. Looking forward, I’m confident that our £112M Creative Diversity commitment, which is the industry’s biggest financial investment in on and off-air inclusion, including disability inclusion, will bring about real, sustainable change and will help disabled talent succeed at all levels. However, we recognise that there’s still more we can do as an industry to achieve our Doubling Disability commitment and we will continue to work closely with the CDN and our broadcasting partners to meet this ambitious target.”

Zaid Al-Qassab, Chief Marketing Officer and Inclusion & Diversity Director of Channel 4 said: “Disability representation remains a real problem in our industry. We set out our Channel 4 creative diversity Disability Strategy earlier this week, with actions to boost disability inclusion on and off screen. We want to see more disabled talent working and progressing in TV, and we need a range of interventions to accelerate the change. We will continue to work with CDN, programme makers and broadcasting partners to improve representation, and track progress against our own disability-related targets.”

Ade Rawcliffe, Group Director of Diversity and Inclusion, ITV said: “This sobering report highlights the urgent work needed to improve disability inclusion. Accelerating progress with increased investment, clear actions and measurable outcomes is a key priority in Year 2 of our Diversity Acceleration Plan. This includes a focus on: senior level talent, on screen representation, establishing a disabled talent pool to work in production on our shows, ring fencing places on all our schemes and initiatives, and educating ourselves to improve disability awareness across ITV and within the shows we produce. This work builds on the improvements ITV has seen in disability representation within our own workforce and in on screen roles as reported in the Fourth Cut Diamond report; and through initiatives like Original Voices and the RE:Calibrate mentoring programme. We welcome the opportunity the CDN creates for us to work collaboratively and will continue to work with our broadcasting partners to drive disability inclusion.”

Zai Bennett Managing Director of Content, Sky UK and Ireland said: “The TV industry has a significant role to play in increasing disability inclusion across the cultural sector.  The data from Diamond clearly highlights that more needs to be done to increase opportunities for disabled people to work across the TV industry. In addition to the commitments we have made as a member of The Valuable 500, we will act on these findings and the recommendations of the report to make our industry a more diverse and inclusive place for everyone.”

Richard Watsham, UKTV’s Director of Commissioning, said: “The Doubling Disability interim report shows how significant the challenge is to get fair representation in our industry. This exclusion has gone on too long. As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s essential that we take the opportunity this provides to redouble our efforts and start taking actions that create significant and sustainable change. Helping to drive these changes is why UKTV recently joined the CDN. We are currently addressing barriers to entry within UKTV Originals by opening up an Access Fund to pay for adjustments and help level the playing field for disabled hires at all levels.”

Maria Kyriacou, President, ViacomCBS Networks UK and Australia said: “This report shows how far we clearly still have to go as an industry. ViacomCBS’ ‘No Diversity, No Commission’ policy underpins our commitment to accelerating progress in diversity, equity and inclusion, and disability is a key area of focus. It is imperative that we give disabled talent more opportunities both on- and off-screen in order to be reflective of society at large, and in particular we’re prioritising increased representation amongst our off-screen production workforce. We will continue to build on our existing initiatives and to collaborate with CDN, our production partners, broadcast peers and industry bodies to strive towards positive change and truly be an industry for all.”

John McVey, CEO of PACT said: “The report paints a stark picture of the challenges faced by disabled people in our industry. Pact supports the CDN’s aims and initiatives to achieve its Doubling Disability target earlier than the seven years it currently estimates it will take, and is also rolling out its own support for Pact members via the Pact Inclusion Tool, to help make their businesses more inclusive.”

Jon Creamer

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