Diverse representation in the UK TV industry’s most senior ranks remains poor, according to the latest landmark Diamond diversity report, which showed representation of disabled people at the top is going backwards.
The report, which is the fifth since the Diamond project was launched to monitor diversity across all broadcasters, indies and genres, showed signs of progress but mostly at lower and mid level.
Representation of disabled people in senior roles over the past five years has fallen from 6.6% to 4.5%, miles behind the circa-17% national average and coming at a time when disability representation is firmly in the spotlight.
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people, meanwhile, make up 11.4% of these senior roles, quite a way behind the 14% national average. Although it increased slightly last year, that figure has fluctuated over the past few years.
The most crucial roles to productions are simply not being filled by people from minority groups, according to the report, with just 2.1% disabled exec producers, 3.2% producers and 4.6% directors.
For Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation, again these figures were all below national average at 7.3%, 10% and 9%. Only 0.4% of exec producers were Black according to the data for the year to July 2021.
Deborah Williams, the CEO of the Creative Diversity Network, which oversees Diamond, said “too much activity has been focused on increasing diversity at entry levels rather than breaking down the barriers to senior level representation.”
She added: “It’s a challenge to celebrate when five years on from our first report, the vast majority of our industry’s power-brokers – who commission content and run indies and broadcasters – are still from such a narrow range of backgrounds.”
Across the board, representation of disabled people stayed virtually flat at 8.3% on-screen and 6% off-screen, well off national average and again a cause for disappointment.
Help writer Jack Thorne has recently launched a lobbying campaign to improve disability representation and today’s data will only strengthen the need for more work in the area after his blistering August MacTaggart address blasted the sector for “utterly and totally failing” disabled people. The broadcasters and indie-led Doubling Disability initiative to double off-screen disability representation by this year to 9% failed and, at current rate of progress, won’t be achieved until 2028.
There was a small increase of more than 1 percentage point to 12.9% for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation off-screen, still slightly behind national average but having now increased by more than one-third over the past five years, a sign of steady progress.
The proportion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people appearing on-screen always tends to be positive and, while it fell slightly last year, it still sits high at 20.9%.
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people are best represented in the factual-entertainment genre off-screen (6.7%) and most poorly in drama (3.2%), a figure made obvious by the low representation in senior scripted roles.
Diamond also looked at representation for transgender people, finding this to be lower than the 0.8% UK average, although the sample size is small.
A whole host of UK broadcasting heavyweights weighed in on the data.
Pact CEO John McVay said the representation of disabled people on and off screen was of greatest concern, Sky UK Managing Director of Content Zai Bennett posited that “more needs to be done across the TV industry to increase inclusion” and Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon also stressed there is “much more to do.”
All broadcasters also listed the various measures they have put in place to improve diverse representation at all levels but broadcasting union Bectu Head Philippa Childs said they must “immediately commit to taking meaningful action.”
“It is simply not good enough for individual broadcasters to set diversity targets and to continue to fail to meet them,” she added. “The pandemic gave the industry an opportunity to reflect on working and hiring practices and we now need to see commitment to substantially improve working practices and culture.
“The latest data lays bare systemic failings to address disability representation. At current rates of progress, we are decades away from the industry reaching representation levels of disabled people that match the UK population.”
More time may be required before we can see if the fruits of this labour have been achieved.
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.