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Tony Hall reveals major action plan to tackle BBC diversity

Tony Hall, director general of the BBC. Photo: Johan Persson
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BBC director general Tony Hall has announced an action plan to increase the Corporation’s representation of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds both on and off screen.

His proposals include the introduction of a £2.1 million fund to “fast track” BAME commissions, launching a senior leadership development programme for people from BAME backgrounds, and new BBC targets for on-screen representation of BAME people, increasing from around 10% to 15%.

Hall said he wanted to ensure the BBC is the “number one destination for talented people regardless of their background”.

The director general has also appointed a panel of experts to advise the BBC on its work around diversity, which will include actor and writer Lenny Henry and spoken word artist George Mpanga.

Earlier this year, Henry criticised the BBC for its lack of BAME representation both on TV and also behind the scenes, calling for the Corporation to ring-fence money for programmes where at least 50% of the production teams and casts were BAME.

Hall revealed that from September, a £2.1 million Diversity Creative Talent Fund would be available to support writers, performers and production staff in addressing BAME portrayal in BBC programmes. The money will be “re-prioritised from other budgets,” he said.

A development programme for assistant commissioning will also be launched to train six future commissioners from diverse backgrounds across comedy, drama, factual, daytime and children’s programmes, said Hall.

In addition, he confirmed the BBC has committed to taking on 20 BAME trainees from charity Creative Access, which provides paid internships in the creative industries for young BAME people.

Meanwhile, a top-level leadership programme for six people from BAME backgrounds will be created in a bid to create more diverse senior leaders in the industry, added Hall.

New BBC targets include increasing the proportion of BAME senior level staff across TV, radio, journalism and commissioning and scheduling from 8.3% to 15% by 2020.

The Corporation will also ensure that 15% of people on-air are from BAME backgrounds by 2017 – up nearly 5% from its current 10.4%. Local targets specific to regions have been set for London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leicester to reflect the population.

Speaking today at the BBC’s Elstree Studios in London, Hall said that the organisation needed to do more to tackle issues on diversity.

He said: “The BBC gets much right on diversity, but the simple fact is that we need to do more.  I am not content for the BBC to be merely good or above average.  I want a new talent-led approach that will help set the pace in the media industry.

“I believe in this and want our record to be beyond reproach.  That won’t be achieved overnight, but the package of measures I’ve put in place, alongside the support we’ll get from leading experts, will make a tangible difference.”

Responding to the announcement, Simon Albury, chair of the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality, said the changes represented a “huge step forward”. However, he said he was disappointed that the new £2.1 million fund accounted for such a small proportion of the BBC’s total content budget.

Albury said: “The BBC has announced a very substantial package of initiatives, which will drive significant and welcome improvement in BAME representation at all levels. It is a huge step forward.

“My slight disappointment is that the Diversity Creative Talent Fund of £2.1 million amounts to no more than 0.12% of the BBC content budget of £1,789.1 million.  If progress is slower than Tony Hall expects, this is an area where the Independent Diversity Action Group [the newly appointed panel of experts] could look to see a significant increase.”

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