The Ofcom Diversity Report was published in June 2018, and while it wasnt controversial at the time, on reflection and after re-reading the report there are clear grounds for a new discussion and discuss and debate about the terrible state that the UK radio industry is in in regard to diversity and inclusivity.
This report should warrant an assertive and direct response to how we go about tackling of the problem of the lack of inclusivity in UK media. The report identifies that:
“Women are under-represented at senior levels. Female employees occupy 37% of senior management roles across the industry. The BBC has the highest proportion of senior women (40%), followed by Bauer (39%) and Global (34%). Editorial roles at the commercial broadcasters are particularly male-dominated: 81% of programming positions at Bauer, and 67% of positions at Global, are filled by men – compared with 46% at the BBC.”
“Ethnic minority employees are under-represented. People from ethnic minority groups make up 6% of the industry, and also 6% of senior management positions – far below the UK population average of 14%. The BBC has the highest proportion of employees from an ethnic minority backgrounds at 8%, followed by Bauer and Global both at 6%. Ethnic-minority representation is generally higher in radio programming roles (11%), although at Bauer, this stands at just 7%, compared with 19% at Global and 10% at the BBC.”
“More than a third of the industry does not ask about disability. Disability data is missing for 38% of the radio industry’s workforce, and so it is difficult to draw absolute conclusions. The data we did receive indicates that 5% of employees say they are disabled, compared to 18% of the UK population. Eight per cent of BBC workers, and 3% of Bauer’s, consider themselves disabled. Global did not submit data for disability.”
Community media was not counted in the survey by Ofcom, because they did not identify volunteers and staff in non-broadcast roles. Perhaps, then, we need to challenge the failing model for examining diversity that is used by the Ofcom?
This model identifies ‘opportunity’ for inclusion, as opposed to ‘provision’ for inclusion. The two are very different. Merely saying that as an organisation is open to all people from whichever background, is not good enough. It’s not the same as actually doing something material about iinclusion that will support, train and empower different people to feel that they can come forward.
There needs to be comprehensive training and development support package put in place that will enable people from different backgrounds to come forward. Especially those who would not traditionally be included in broadcast media organisations.
The figures for Lesbian, Gay and Transsexual people in the UK radio industry, for example, are simply shocking. There is very little reporting being made of the diversity of sexual orientation of people in the UK radio industry, and the level that is reported here is miniscule.
You might think that community media would be uniquely placed to foster and support wider diversity and inclusivity in our media culture, but until we get the practical support and recognition for the essential role that community media can make in bringing about real and lasting changes, then many of these discussions will simply go around in circles.
We need to be identifying and tackling these issues across the whole of community media activities that we undertake. The report has a very short section on community radio, which states:
“Although community radio stations can be hampered by a lack of resource and are largely run on the goodwill of volunteers, there are positive examples of stations which have incorporated diversity and equal opportunities through training initiatives, recruitment and programming.”
Two examples of good practice in community radio are identified in the report:
Reprezent FM: “The station has also become an incubator for new talent, providing a platform and career path for radio presenters and music artists, some of whom have gone on to achieve mainstream success in the music industry.”
Bradford Community Radio: “Among its various training initiatives, the station runs a project to support the learning disabled. There is also strong representation amongst those from an ethnic minority background in the station’s volunteer recruitment as well as on its management committee.”
What the report doesn’t indicate is how this is achieved in practice, and therefore how it can be practically supported across a wider range of community radio stations and community media practices?
The recommendations in the report seem to me to be superficial and hopelessly unrealistic. Rather than identifying the specific steps that need to be built-in to the process of securing greater diversity, based on detailed evidence of how this is achieved in practice, i.e. a lot of hard work and commitment from the volunteers who run these stations, the report simply outlines a set of what might be described as management platitudes.
The recommendation that UK radio operators should ‘know their workforce,’ that they should ‘establish goals,’ and that they should ‘take the lead‘ will all look great in a Human Resources report, but they do not give an indication of what it takes to struggle to pay for electricity, find accommodation, build transmission systems, coordinate volunteers, and get people on-air.
My immediate and personal response is that this report is not good enough and that Ofcom should be given a much stronger remit to actively promote and support diversity and inclusivity in the radio industry in practical terms, not just by crunching numbers in a glossy report that simply recycles images from corporate publicity campaigns.
This is grim reading and should be a wake-up call to media reformers who want to see significant change in the UK media industries.