Last week Ofcom published the first in what it says will be a regular series of reports into diversity and equal opportunities in television. It focuses on the biggest UK television broadcasters: BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky and Viacom (owner of Channel 5 amongst others).
Diversity remains a key concern in the media industry, from representation throughout media organisations, to issues surrounding pay discrimination based on sex.
But I really do have a bone to pick with this, and nearly every report on diversity in UK broadcasting. They don’t go far enough.
Sharon White, Ofcom’s CEO says in her introduction to the report: “Too many people from minority groups struggle to get into television. That creates a cultural disconnection between the people who make programmes, and the many millions who watch them.”
This is undoubtedly true, despite schemes that are set up across the industry.
The report breaks employees into the following categories:
- Racial group (BAME)
- Sexual orientation
- Religion and belief
The report dutifully compares each of the measured broadcasters against both the population at large, UK based industry, and the average amongst the peers. From this we see, for example, that Channel 4 does well amongst BAME staff, while Viacom does well with women in leadership roles.
But there’s a glaring hole in this analysis, and it’s one that pervades UK media.
It’s just not measured. And without that we’re missing something fundamental from our broadcasters.
I’m not saying the other factors aren’t important – they are. And sometimes those other measures can be indicative of social class. But while media has a widely acknowledged considerable issue with new entrants coming into the sector, unless they’re supported by family members (bank of mum and dad), and can support themselves in London while they do unpaid “work experience”, then for all those other measures, we’re going to only get people who come from wealthier backgrounds.
Everybody knows this. It was mentioned in a good episode of The Media Show from the RTS Cambridge TV Festival this week.
So I’m not at all sure why it’s not included in Ofcom’s report. It’s critical that this is measured to truly show diversity in the media.[UPDATE: I wrote a follow-up to this piece, detailing some ways this data could actually be collated.]