diversity

Diversity in UK Radio

Ofcom has just published its diversity monitoring report into the radio industry. It replicates the work Ofcom did in television, and the report makes interesting reading.

The first note in the report is that the data for this is very poor. They contacted 16 broadcasters to compile the report, and while all 16 reported on gender, there was missing data from at least some on ethnicity, disability, age, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.

Some topline findings:

  • 62% of senior managers are male
  • 81% of board level managers are male
  • technical and engineering jobs are 81% male
  • 52% of programming roles are male – but in commercial radio it’s 68% male compared with the BBC’s 46% male
  • women have higher proportions of roles in marketing (70%), support (66%) and sales (63%)
  • only 6% of the workforce are from an ethnic minority compared with 14% of the population
  • of those groups that disclosed ethnicity at board level, there was no representation at all of ethnic minorities

With respect to the high proportion of men in technical and engineering jobs, Ofcom notes that there is a wider issue of encouraging women to pursue STEM subjects, with the numbers being especially bad in the UK.

The report details specific results from the BBC, Global and Bauer. Ofcom says that BBC leads the industry on diversity and inclusion, setting targets and putting initiatives in place. But this perhaps isn’t surprising since it is both a public company and recently having issues with regards to the gender pay gap.

Global has some data gaps with some ethnicity data missing and nothing on disability, age, sexual orientation or religion. It has acknowledged this and has launched a diversity strategy.

Bauer’s data is fuller, only lacking sexual orientation and religion, and has put in place initiatives to promote diversity in under-represented groups.

What Ofcom Doesn’t Measure

There is something missing from the report, and it’s something I’ve noted before since I’m certain that it impacts on many of the other measures. That’s social group or class. The social background of employees, especially within the media industry, is heavily skewed towards the upper end and this simply isn’t measured.

As I’ve said before, I believe this is down to media jobs being widely seen as glamourous, if not highly paid. Therefore, lots of people are willing to “get a foot in the door” meaning low wages. Often self-support is required, quite probably from “the bank of mum and dad.” Furthermore there is still far too much unpaid “internships” and “work experience” often lacking payment even for transport. Only those from wealthier backgrounds can afford to take up such opportunities that often require people to have accommodation in London. In so many cases, getting that foot in the door really does work, and when a job comes up, it will be those who have some experience, and perhaps are already a known quantity, who get the gigs.

I know this isn’t easy to measure, but it I wish Ofcom would attempt to do it.

Also, I’d like to know what the spread of jobs in the industry is around the country. A regional breakdown would be great. I strongly suspect that it’s heavily skewed towards London. All the major radio groups are based in London, and often have significant sales or production presences there. All this in turn means that measures like levels of ethnicity are probably are even worse, because in London the population is far more ethnically diverse than it is in the rest of the country.

Diversity in Media – Measuring Social Class

On Sunday I wrote a piece on Ofcom’s Diversity in Television report, and in particular, noted my disappointment that it didn’t measure social class.

The feedback I got can basically be summed up with the question: “Yes, but how do you measure class?”

So I thought it was worth exploring the issue a bit further.

Measuring social class isn’t easy. What you can’t do is simply ask people to mark themselves on a form. You need to collect proxy information that can provide you with some kind of methodology to measure it.

Here we come to census v survey.

A census is a record of every single employee, whereas a survey is a sample of some of the population. While ordinarily you’d want to measure the responses of all your employees, if your company is big enough then a survey may suffice. Not only that, if you know that some employees are likely to feel uncomfortable answering certain questions, then you’re likely to need to use a survey.

It’s for this reason, by the way, that surveys conducted about sensitive areas such as sex, should be treated with extreme caution, since many do not wish to answer, and indeed may be answering untruthfully.

Of course, there are rightly concerns that this is sensitive data. What right does my employer have to know about my parents’ education, or jobs? And as an employer, do I feel comfortable asking employees to collect this data?

It is sensitive information, and it needs to be collected and measured responsibly. So that probably means that it shouldn’t sit as a field in an employee’s record on an HR system, anymore than you’d record someone’s sexual orientation or religious beliefs on such a system.

Yet we also collect data on those sensitive areas. It’s usually collected in survey form, and on an anonymised basis. The collection is probably best handled by a third-party specialist research company who can assure employees that the data is not being used for anything other than measuring diversity in the workplace.

It’s important that social class data is collected as it impacts on many behaviours across societies. So while it’s hard to do it, groups like the Office of National Statistics have to collect this data, and indeed they have their own methodology for doing so. Notably, these are based around employment status (employer, self-employed or employee), organisational size and supervisory status (does a person supervise others, and in what context?).

As The Guardian reported over the weekend, the BBC has made the decision to use a staff survey which measured parents’ occupations, noting that its staff showed a higher likelihood of their parents having achieved higher managerial and professional occupations than the wider population, suggesting a class imbalance compared with the wider population.

Now it’s certainly true that an organisation the size of the BBC is able to get an external research company to measure such indicators, and provide norms to compare against. But Ofcom’s report was based on UK broadcasters who all had turnover’s of £1bn or more, so I’d argue that each of them is in a position to do a similar job.

On the other hand, a small indie isn’t in such a position, and the size of that indie might make such data relatively meaningless anyway.

Yet if the media industry is serious about diversity, then this does need measuring, and doing so on a pan-media basis with some central funding, could mean that the broader industry could be surveyed.

Mind you, as a friend of mine said to me, if you banned unpaid “internships” tomorrow, it may fix the problem quite quickly.

Diversity in UK Media – Ofcom’s Report Doesn’t Go Far Enough

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:

  • Gender
  • Racial group (BAME)
  • Disability
  • Age
  • 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.

Social class.

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.]