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Producers ‘must better engage’ with equality monitoring, say diversity campaigners

Performers will receive guidance about the information they will be required to share in equality monitoring forms. Photo: Shutterstock

Diversity campaigners have called for the entertainment industry to better engage with equality monitoring and for theatre to follow the lead set by broadcast scheme Project Diamond.

The calls come in the wake of the publication of Project Diamond’s first report into diversity [1] in the broadcast industry. Just 24% of those invited to submit data in the project’s first year did so.

Campaigners have warned there will be no real change in the landscape unless more people engage with data collection schemes.

Ayesha Casely-Hayford, chair of the board of trustees for Act for Change, said people had historically been “suspicious” of monitoring, and major improvements were required around communicating its purpose with the workforce.

“There is a feeling that monitoring forms are a checklist for organisations and employers to say, ‘Yep, we’ve done the diversity thing now’ or, even worse, to use the information to screen out those they don’t want.

“In fact, without monitoring, we can’t move on. We need to assess where we’re at and monitoring is how we get a picture of the diversity landscape. As with any data entry and capturing, the system is only as good as the user. We have to engage and give the info for the statistics. Vital effort is needed and each and every one of us is responsible.”

Casely-Hayford added that Act for Change would like to see a scheme similar to Project Diamond specifically for theatre. In 2015, Arts Council England launched new a strategy [2] monitoring the diversity of its national portfolio organisations. However, this does not include the commercial sector or unfunded theatre organisations.

Fraser Ayres, chief executive of the TriForce Creative Network, said: “The most telling figure from the first Diamond report is that less than a quarter of people responded. This has probably skewed the results to appear more positive than they really are, as productions that are doing well in representing a diverse range of people will have been more proactive in asking their teams to fill in the forms. Unless we get behind this as an industry we will never have a Diamond report that shows the true extent of the issue.”

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

Introducing the first 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 broadcasting data set like this. 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.”

Project Diamond collects data on people working across all roles on productions for the major broadcasters: the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky.

It was launched in August 2016 and has now published statistics submitted during its first year of operation.

Its findings claimed that offscreen staff in the broadcast industry were half as likely to be from minority ethnic backgrounds as their onscreen counterparts.

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 offscreen 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.

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

The project has drawn criticism [3] for not publishing diversity breakdowns by individual broadcasters, with BECTU and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain saying they would boycott the scheme.

Following the publication of the report, BECTU said the low participation levels reflected a “lack of confidence on the part of BAME professionals in the willingness of programme makers and broadcasters to be held accountable for their performance in terms of diversity and employment”.

“Diamond could be a groundbreaking initiative. But it will fail unless the data it captures highlights both specific best practice and specific poor practice. We have called for disclosures on the make-up of the workforce based on all programmes broadcast in prime time. Only this concrete and focused evidence will bring about the change we all need,” said Gerry Morrissey, head of BECTU.

Christine Payne, general secretary of fellow entertainment union Equity, said the project has the potential to help facilitate change, but its first 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.”