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Report highlights ‘acute under-representation’ of BAME TV directors

Directors UK published its first report into minority ethnic representation among TV directors in 2015. Photo: Shutterstock/Zarya Maxim Alexandrovich
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Just 2.2% of British TV episodes were made by black, Asian or minority ethnic directors between 2013 and 2016, according to a new report that claims progress in this area has been negligible.

In the figures compiled by Directors UK, 2.2% is well below the 14% of the UK population that is BAME. The association said the numbers highlighted “acute levels of under-representation and underemployment of BAME directors”.

In 2015, Directors UK published its first report into minority ethnic representation among TV directors and called for urgent change in this area.

Only 1.5% of UK TV programmes have BAME directors, claims survey

However, its most recent publication criticises the lack of progress made by broadcasters and TV producers: the number of episodes directed by BAME directors increased by just 0.11 percentage points between 2013 and 2016.

None of the four main broadcasters made a significant improvement, Directors UK said.

A dedicated equality monitoring programme for broadcasting, Project Diamond, was introduced in 2017, but the report acknowledges that the response rates for contributing data to it remain low, and until broadcasters provide further data, conclusions cannot be drawn.

The report suggests a number of possible causes for the continued underrepresentation of BAME directors, including unconscious bias, closed hiring practices and a loss of focus. It also claims small-scale diversity initiatives will not create systemic change, and calls on broadcasters to commit to wider, more strategic plans.

Directors UK said these could include setting targets, overhauling recruitment practices and making it mandatory for broadcasters to monitor and report on the diversity of all staff.

The body also called on the broadcasters to commit 0.25% of their commissioning spend to fund career development and access schemes. This is a similar demand to one made by Directors UK last month to boost female TV directors.

Directors UK board member Ashok Prasad said: “I am disappointed at these new results and at the lack of progress since the last report three years ago. I am concerned that there is a very low proportion of BAME directors employed by broadcasters and production companies, indicating a separation between the people who make our TV programmes and the audiences who watch them.

“Broadcasters and production companies need to dedicate more time, money and effort to ensure that a significant shift is made to diversify the pool of directors working in the UK to properly reflect the makeup of our society.”

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