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Report: BAME directors still poorly represented in UK TV

September 21, 2018

Directors UK has called for more career development initiatives for under-represented directors as their latest report reveals the negligible progress made in the employment and representation of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) directors in UK television.

The report, Adjusting the Colour Balance: Black, Asian and minority ethnic representation among screen directors working in UK Television, analyses the proportion of TV programmes made by BAME directors across the UK’s four main television channels (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) between 2013 and 2016. It highlighted that:

  • Just 2.22 per cent of UK television programmes were made by BAME directors between 2013-2016.
  • Television episodes directed by BAME directors increased by just 0.11 per centage points – from 2.2 per cent to 2.31 per cent.
  • Only 3.6 per cent of directors featured in our dataset come from BAME backgrounds.
  • No broadcaster made a significant improvement on diversity in the four-year period. The BBC, ITV and Channel 5 saw marginal increases, whilst Channel 4 saw a slight decline.
  • Genres which had workplace interventions showed the biggest improvement: Continuing Drama rose by 3 per centage points, while Single Dramas rose by 3.6 per centage points.

The report also reveals year on year fluctuations across genres, suggesting an inconsistent approach to achieving change. The findings highlight the lack of progress made in the employment and representation of BAME directors, despite the diversity and inclusion strategies introduced by broadcasters and producers over the years.

The figures also indicate that positive interventions, initiatives and schemes do positively boost diversity, but, these need to be made available across all genres in order to generate systematic change across programme making.

In response, Directors UK has set out a number of recommendations to close the diversity gap. These include:

  • broadcasters be set targets to ensure their workforce mirrors the UK population by 2020
  • fairer recruitment practices and unconscious bias training for those in hiring positions
  • Ofcom to make it mandatory for all UK broadcasters to monitor and report on diversity of all staff both freelance and permanent
  • broadcasters to commit 0.25 per cent of their commissioning spend to fund career development and industry access schemes.

Directors UK Board member Ashok Prasad said: “I am disappointed at these new results and at the lack of progress since the last report three years ago. I am concerned that there is a very low proportion of BAME directors employed by broadcasters and production companies, indicating a separation between the people who make our TV programmes and the audiences who watch them. Broadcasters and production companies need to dedicate more time, money and effort to ensure that a significant shift is made to diversify the pool of directors working in the UK to properly reflect the makeup of our society.”

Directors UK CEO Andrew Chowns added: “Although disappointing overall we are glad to see signs of improvement for BAME directors in some genres. What this shows is that deliberate and collaborative interventions in partnership with broadcasters and production companies make a difference to diversity and must become more widely available. The industry can no longer pay lip-service to diversity initiatives. More needs to be done across all genres to ensure that directors from under-represented groups have access to opportunities and career development.

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