BBC defends diversity figures following Ofcom report

14th Sep 17 | Entertainment News

The regulator said the BBC "should lead the way" and called for a "step change" across the industry.

Ofcom

The BBC has defended its record on diversity after Ofcom criticised broadcasters for not doing enough.

The regulator said the BBC “should lead the way” on the issue and called for a “step change” across the industry.

Out of the big five broadcasters – the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky and Channel 5 owner Viacom – the BBC ranked fourth for female representation among its employees (47%).

The report showed 39% of the BBC’s senior management roles are held by women, lower than Viacom and ITV.

Ofcom CEO, Sharon White.
Ofcom chief Sharon White said broadcasters were “falling short” (Ofcom/PA)

The corporation employs 8% more older men (over 50) than women, and older men are generally more likely to be employed than older women by the broadcasters.

The BBC said: “Ofcom’s report uses old figures which don’t show the recent progress we have made.

“Figures we’ve already published in 2017 show we have increased our representation across the board including in our female, LGBT, BAME and disability workforce.

BBC Broadcasting House.
The BBC said the report did not reflect recent progress (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“We’ve been clear about our commitment to leading the way on diversity and set the most stretching targets for 2020 because no-one should be complacent about the challenge facing the whole industry.”

According to 2017 figures, which include World Service staff based in the UK, 42.1% of senior leadership BBC roles are held by women.

BBC employees are increasingly likely to be male the more senior their role, but all main five broadcasters have more men in senior positions.

The report comes after the BBC was forced to publish details of its top talent pay, which revealed two-thirds of its stars earning more than £150,000 are male, with Chris Evans the best paid on between £2.2 million and £2.25 million.

Chris Evans (Nick Ansell/PA)
Chris Evans is the BBC’s highest earning star (Nick Ansell/PA)

Ethnic minority employees make up 12% of employees across the five broadcasters, lower than the 14% UK population average.

At the BBC, only 6% of senior roles are held by people from an ethnic minority background, with only ITV having a lower proportion.

Ofcom said that figures suggest employees from an ethnic minority background are less likely to be promoted.

Ethnic minority groups feel they are negatively portrayed on TV, while half of disabled people feel under-represented, and many older people, especially women, say they are represented negatively.

Jon Snow
Jon Snow says media workers are removed from ordinary people’s lives (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ofcom also looked at religion and belief, sexual orientation, age, disability, racial group and gender.

Channel 4 has the most diverse workforce across most characteristics, with the BBC second.

Sir Lenny Henry has previously pressed broadcasters to increase diversity, while newsreader Jon Snow has warned people working in the media have become too far removed from ordinary people’s lives.

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said that previous audience research revealed broadcasters were “falling short” in reflecting “the society we live in today”.

Sir Lenny Henry.
Sir Lenny Henry has urged broadcasters to increase diversity (Ian West/PA)

There is a “cultural disconnection between the people who make programmes and the many millions who watch them”, she said.

Shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport Tom Watson said the report proves “British broadcasting has a diversity problem” and called for more comprehensive data.

“Women and people from BAME backgrounds are under-represented, particularly in senior roles, but the most shocking fact is that just 3% of the broadcasting workforce has a disability, compared with 18% of the population.

“Our television represents who we are as a nation and those who work on and off screen should represent the whole country, not just part of it.”

The BBC was the only broadcaster to report social economic background.

© Press Association 2017

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