Advanced Television

Ofcom: TV broadcasters must maintain momentum on diversity

September 27, 2018

UK television broadcasters are collecting more data on the make-up of their workforces than ever before, Ofcom has found, marking a step forward in understanding and addressing under-representation across the TV industry.

Last year, Ofcom required broadcasters to undertake more regular and detailed monitoring of employees’ characteristics, to identify under-represented groups and help tackle a lack of diversity in UK television.

The report, Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Television 2018, examines progress over the last 12 months across the UK-based TV industry. It focuses on the five main broadcasters – the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky and Viacom (which owns Channel 5).

Having a more representative workforce helps broadcasters to create innovative, imaginative and authentic television that reflects modern Britain and the lives and experiences of their whole audience. Broadcasters have an obligation, as a condition of their licences, to take measures to promote equality of opportunity in employment. This also helps people to work in broadcasting who otherwise might not have a chance to do so.

Better data, but gaps remain

Taking the UK-based television industry as a whole, TV broadcasters now collect data on the ethnicity of 88 per cent of staff, up from 83 per cent last year. They have measured the age of 86 per cent of employees, and the sexual orientation of 59 per cent – up from 71 per cent and 49 per cent respectively a year ago. The religion or belief of 56 per cent of staff is also captured in today’s report, up from 41 per cent a year ago.

But information on the disability status of employees has failed to improve, with 31 per cent of staff (11,323) unaccounted for – similar to last year. As a result, the picture of how well disabled people are represented in UK television remains unclear.

Ofcom expects broadcasters to keep improving data, particularly in areas such as disability and sexual orientation, and the monitoring of freelance staff, where it remains poor. We will be working with broadcasters to help them address this in the coming months.

Much more to do on diversity

  • Disabled people remain significantly under-represented. The proportion of employees who define themselves as disabled has doubled from 3 per cent to 6 per cent. But this remains far below the UK population average of 18 per cent. Of the five main broadcasters, Channel 4 (11 per cent) and the BBC (10 per cent) have the highest representation of disabled people, followed by Viacom (8 per cent). Sky (3 per cent) and ITV (2 per cent) have the lowest.
  • Minority ethnic representation yet to improve at senior levels. The proportion of employees from minority ethnic backgrounds has risen slightly from 11 per cent to 13 per cent, which is in line with the UK workforce average of 12 per cent. But representation at senior management level (8 per cent) has seen no significant improvement since last year (7 per cent). Minority ethnic employees are also under-represented in content and creative roles at all the main broadcasters, except for Viacom.
  • Small increase in women at senior levels. Overall, women in the TV industry (46 per cent) are represented broadly in line with the UK’s working population (47 per cent). Sky employs fewer women (38 per cent) as a proportion of its workforce than the other main broadcasters. The proportion of women at senior management level across the industry has increased from 38 per cent to 41 per cent. Viacom and ITV have the highest proportion of women in senior management positions, both at 45 per cent; while Sky has the lowest at 38 per cent. Men continue to dominate technology and engineering roles, with a quarter (25 per cent) of these jobs held by women. Women are also under-represented, to a lesser extent, across creative and content production roles (43 per cent).
  • More older men employed than older women. Across the industry, 13 per cent of female employees are aged 50-or-over, compared to 19 per cent of all male employees. All of the five main broadcasters employ more men aged 50-or-over than women (BBC – 30 per cent / 23 per cent; ITV – 23 per cent /15 per cent; Channel 4 – 12 per cent / 9 per cent; Sky – 16 per cent / 9 per cent; Viacom – 11 per cent / 5 per cent).
  • Missing data on religion or belief. The proportion of staff whose religion or belief is unknown has fallen from 59 per cent to 44 per cent. But more than 16,000 employees across the television industry remain unmonitored, representing the biggest ‘data gap’ across all characteristics.

At a recent diversity summit meeting, hosted by Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Sharon White, the heads of all the major TV broadcasters personally committed to driving change across their organisations.

During the last year, the broadcasters have each adopted a range of schemes and initiatives to boost diversity and inclusion, which are detailed in Ofcom’s ‘in-focus’ report.

We expect this work to be reflected in workforce data over time, as new processes are embedded and job opportunities arise through staff turnover.

Vikki Cook, Ofcom Director of Standards and Audience Protection, said: “We’re encouraged that major broadcasters understand the need to attract people who may not feel they can make a career in TV. Senior people across TV are leading work to widen the breadth of talent, on and off screen. This is in broadcasters’ interests, because it helps them make programmes that reflect the whole UK.

“But our report shows how far there is to go. We expect broadcasters to build on the momentum of the last year, and to keep improving their monitoring and staff diversity in the coming months.”

Next steps

To ensure that momentum is maintained in tackling under-representation across the television industry, Ofcom has set out further areas which broadcasters will be expected to focus on.

  • Data must improve. Broadcasters still need to collect more detailed information on the characteristics of their employees, instead of relying on broad, uniform categories which offer limited insight.
  • Disabled people must be better represented. Broadcasters need to adopt initiatives and long-term strategies to attract workers with different types of disability. These should include targeted recruitment and progression schemes, developed in close consultation with disability charities and organisations.
  • Staff from minority ethnic backgrounds should be engaged. Building on work already in place, broadcasters should consider focus groups to involve minority ethnic staff in the development of strategies and schemes to improve representation and aid progression;
  • Targets must be clear and measurable. Broadcasters should ensure diversity targets are clearly defined, with a firm delivery date, so they can assess progress and reflect this in company strategy;
  • Collaboration on social mobility should continue. Ofcom has worked with the diversity heads of the  UK’s major broadcasters to agree how best to measure the social and economic background of employees. Ofcom intends to report on the industry’s social and economic diversity next year; and
  • Freelancers should be monitored as a priority. The industry should work together and give urgent attention to addressing a major gap in the monitoring of freelancers.


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