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Landmark TV diversity report highlights lack of off-screen representation

The study reported that 2.3 million people in the UK work in the creative industries Project Diamond is a cross-industry initiative with data supplied by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky. Photo: Maxim Alexandrovich Zarya/Shutterstock
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Off-screen staff in the broadcast industry are half as likely to be from minority ethnic backgrounds as their onscreen counterparts, according to the first report from diversity monitoring scheme Project Diamond.

The inaugural report, based on submissions from the first year of the project, was described by entertainment union Equity as a “first insight into what the [UK] TV industry looks like”.

According to the data submitted, the percentage of black, Asian and minority ethnic people appearing on screen between August 2016 and July 2017 was 21.5%. However, this drops to just 10.5% when assessing off-screen roles.

An estimated 13% of the national population are from BAME backgrounds.

The report also found that workers with a disability are severely under-represented both on and off-screen in comparison to the national population, as are those aged over 50.

Project Diamond is a cross-industry initiative, meaning that data is supplied by major broadcasters the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky.

Of those appearing on screen in productions over the past year:

  • 48.1% were female
  • 24.2% were aged over 50
  • 21.5% had black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds
  • 6.5% had a disability
  • 13.2% were LGBT
  • 0.8% were transgender

Of those contributing to productions in an off-screen capacity:

  • 54.6% were female
  • 20.4% were aged over 50
  • 10.1% were BAME
  • 5.5% had a disability
  • 11.7% were LGBT
  • 0% were transgender

It should be noted that only 24% of people invited to submit data in the first year did so, and the report highlighted that this opened up the possibility of bias in the data collected.

The Creative Diversity Network, which oversaw the scheme, said it would try to understand any barriers and challenges around engaging with the scheme in order to increase participation and response rates in future.

The project has drawn some criticism for not publishing diversity breakdowns by individual broadcaster, with BECTU and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain saying they would boycott the scheme.

The CDN said it hoped to provide more detail on specific job roles and genres in future publications, once fuller data is collected.

Introducing the report, CDN chief executive Deborah Williams described the project as a “game changer”.

“This is the first published report anywhere in the world of a data set like this, from broadcasting. The broadcasters have started something that means it will never be possible or acceptable to say ‘we don’t know’ when talking about diversity in the UK television industry.”

Equity general secretary Christine Payne said the union welcomed the report, adding: “Diamond has the potential to help facilitate the change we all want to see, but today’s report only highlights the need for more detail.

“We urge the Creative Diversity Network to continue to publish this data because it is through full disclosure that we can accelerate the pace of change.”

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