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U.K. Broadcasters Must ‘Slow the Revolving Door’ and Retain and Progress Diverse Talent, Says Media Regulator

Diversity in Entertainment Hollywood Film TV
Derek Abella for Variety

There is a “woeful” lack of diversity within senior positions and key decision makers, a five-year study commissioned by U.K. media regulator Ofcom has found.

According to the body’s “Five-Year Review: Diversity and Equal Opportunities in U.K. Broadcasting” study, published on Wednesday, if the broadcasting industry continues on the same path, the proportion of TV employees who are disabled will fall over the next five years, as will female radio employees.

“Broadcasters appear to have focused on entry-level recruitment at the expense of retaining diverse staff and enabling them to progress,” the study notes. In the aftermath of the pandemic, more women in particular are leaving the broadcasting business than joining, the study reveals.

Ofcom’s findings about entry-level recruitment given more attention than existing diverse staff in older demographics also chimes with recent research commissioned by the U.K.’s Film and TV Charity, as revealed by Variety.

On a positive note, the study finds that broadcasters are more representative of the U.K.’s ethnic diversity. In 2017/18, minority ethnic groups made up just 6% of the radio workforce. This has now increased to 10%, though it’s still below the U.K. working population benchmark of 12%.

In TV, 16% of staff are from minority ethnic backgrounds, up from 13% over the same period.

However, the U.K.’s disabled population is underrepresented in the broadcasting industry. Despite encouraging initiatives in recent years, both TV and radio are still reporting industry-wide representation at 7% — less than half the U.K. benchmark of 19% in 2020/21.

Using the study as a basis, Ofcom is calling on broadcasters to implement a number of measures: further improve data collection, including around promotions; report the success or failure of diversity initiatives more transparently; engage meaningfully with their staff networks; and consider setting retention targets.

“Broadcasters have made progress hiring a wider range of talent. For example, there are twice as many people working in radio from minority ethnic backgrounds as there were three years ago,” said Vikki Cook, Ofcom’s director of broadcasting policy. “But for the first time, more people are leaving the industry than joining, particularly women, while disabled people remain significantly underrepresented. And because companies have focused on entry-level recruitment, there still isn’t enough diverse talent in senior roles.”

“So we’re calling on broadcasters to slow the revolving door and focus on retaining and progressing talented people from all walks of life.”