Commission announces new project to increase diversity in the television sector

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched a new government-backed project aimed at unlocking economic and creative potential by increasing the diversity of people working in Britain’s television sector.

As the UK’s national equality body and authority on equality legislation, the Commission will be providing expert legal guidance on what is permitted under the law for employers, commissioners and others working within the sector.

The guidance will help broadcasters expand the talent pool from which they find the best candidates and will cover areas including employment, commissioning, broadcasting, programme making and procurement practices.

Research from industry bodies showed that:

  •  Only 5 per cent of those working in the creative industries were from black or ethnic minorities. This contrasted with a population of around 30 per cent black or ethnic minority in the urban areas where a large proportion of broadcasters and producers operate. This figure had actually decreased by 30 per cent since the previous industry census¹.
  •  The number of disabled people in the creative media industries had remained static for 12 years at 5 per cent compared with 11 per cent across the wider working population².
  •  Just 2.5 per cent of those appearing on screen were portrayed as having a disability, and older people, particularly older women, were under-represented compared to the make up of the population at large³.

The industry itself has identified under-representation of ethnic minorities, disabled people and women off and on screen as an issue to be addressed. However, confusion about what actions to promote diversity may be lawful or unlawful under equality legislation has held many companies back from taking positive steps to improve representation.

The EHRC’s Disability Commissioner, Lord Holmes of Richmond said: “Our creative industries lead the world and it’s important that the most talented candidates out there see a job in television as a rewarding career choice if our broadcasters and production companies are to continue to be world beaters.

“The television industry knows it needs to raise its game, and match good intentions with clear action. For too long, the industry has largely ended up filling roles with people who look and sound like those who are interviewing them. And it’s not just about on-screen presence, but perhaps more importantly about making sure we have diversity at all roles up to the commissioning and management level at broadcasters and indies by addressing the barriers to entry and career progression.”

“This is not about political correctness but working harder to find the best talent across all communities, bringing new skills and perspectives that will help unlock economic and creative potential. Our guidance will explain how broadcasters can operate within the law, while redoubling their efforts to make TV more representative but crucially richer as a result.”

The project, which is supported and funded by DCMS, will see the Commission working with Ofcom, the Creative Diversity Network, broadcasters, independent production companies, trades unions  and bodies representing those working in the television sector.

The new guidance will be launched by Lord Holmes at a panel session on diversity at the Edinburgh Television Festival.  Alongside the legal guidance, the Commission is working with Ofcom on a toolkit for the sector which will provide examples of practical steps to increase diversity.

Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries said: “The EHRC guidance will be a very welcome and timely way to support broadcasters as they take forward plans to improve diversity on television. I want to see progress here, not just in on screen diversity but also in recruitment to jobs behind the camera and in senior and professional roles in the industry.”

Tony Close, Director of Content Standards, Licencing and Enforcement at Ofcom said:  “We welcome the EHRC’s plans. The UK is a world leader in TV and radio content and it’s important there are equal opportunities for all people who want a career in broadcasting.

“We’ll be working with the Commission on a toolkit for the sector that will provide examples of practical steps broadcasters can take to increase diversity.”