Diversity in the Media
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their current assessment of diversity in the British media.
My Lords, I have spent seven long years as a diversity executive and only in the last year or so have I suddenly felt wanted. These days everyone wants advice about improving diversity. Let me start with the housekeeping and draw attention to my entries in the Register of Members’ interests. I am Channel 4’s diversity executive and the lead member on the board of governors for the British Film Institute with responsibility for diversity.
In the past I used to be very lonely but now things are hotting up, I am pleased to report. Everyone wants a piece of the action. After seven years as diversity executive, I thought the time had come to summarise what needs to happen to turbo boost diversity in Britain’s media and which principles we must embrace to secure change. I would therefore like to place before the Committee six principles and one fact.
In other speeches to Parliament, I have outlined the extraordinary strength of Britain’s creative industries and I will not repeat it now. Suffice to say that the creative industries in general and TV and film in particular are special cases. To some extent they create our culture and in many ways make us who we are. We like to think of ourselves as open, accessible, imaginative, innovative, transformational, wealth generating and, perhaps more than anything, fair—we are British, after all. So how is it that the representation we see on British TV does not always seem that fair? How is it that many under-represented groups feel locked out? In a nutshell, why does not British TV reflect Britain adequately? What are we doing wrong?
That question was posed last week on Radio 4’s “The Media Show” about the BBC’s latest diversity strategy. That strategy is hot off the press, but it is the 29th such strategy in 15 years. There is therefore an inevitable feeling that this strategy is just as likely as the last 28 strategies to slowly sink without trace. Simon Albury, chair of the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality and former chair of the Royal Television Society, does a great job of holding all the broadcasters’ feet to the fire. His article in the Guardian last week was entitled, “The BBC’s diversity strategy is not good enough”, so that gives a clue about its content. He then explains why the BBC’s current BAME employment rates are woeful and he praises Channel 4 for being frank about our own progress around diversity and setting,
“a benchmark that other public service broadcasters should seek to match”.
Let me be frank: a diversity strategy is not worth the paper it is written on unless it gives others the tools to measure its success. We can all spin our way out of trouble—or at least try to—and so the first principle we must all embrace is transparency, and we must link that transparency firmly to diversity data. Without it, there is little chance of making progress.
Here the broadcasters deserve credit for creating and funding a system that will allow others to judge them on how they perform on diversity. I know that the broadcasters are not thinking, “Let us sink £2 million on a system that is going to possibly criticise us hugely and be happy about that spend”. However, they have stepped up to the table and are working closely with Ed Vaizey, the Minister responsible—he has provided fantastic leadership in this area—because everyone recognises that it will bring transparency.
DIAMOND is the name for this system. It stands for Diversity Analysis Monitoring Data—a snappy little title that I came up with in the middle of the night but nevertheless serves its purpose. DIAMOND, as the Creative Diversity Network sets out on its website, will switch the lights on. It will enable British broadcasting to be the first of its kind in the world to answer the question: who is on our TV and who makes our TV? That question basically is: who chooses which stories are told and which voices are heard? These questions go to the heart of what it is to be a free society with a free press, so let us not accidently file away the “Diversity in the media” debate as being boring but worthy. It fundamentally deals with questions about who we are and what sort of society we are.
While I am being frank, let me also state what I think one of my greatest mistakes was for five of my seven years at Channel 4, where I was first head of diversity and then, when I came into this House, became diversity executive. My mistake was largely ignoring the situation facing women in the industry. Because I am a woman, I probably thought, subconsciously or not, that I better not start going on and on about women’s issues. But then you reflect a bit. Five years go by and you realise that women’s issues are society’s issues; that if you wipe out discrimination against 52% of the population, you boost employment and expand the talent pool, and if you change gender stereotypes, rather than perpetuate them—which too often the media do—you make things better for girls and boys, because boys are just as distorted by sexist stereotypes as girls.
That brings me on to my second and third principles: accountability that must be data-driven. We need accountability and we need our decisions to be data-driven. The data show us which groups are most excluded. They show us that, extraordinarily important as on-screen diversity is, the lack of off-screen diversity is even more concerning.
One example of data helping to inform opinion is the Channel 4 report on gender in the media. I hope that we at Channel 4 made good a small absence on gender for a few years, although we have had some extraordinary on-screen triumphs in terms of very strong roles for women and so forth. The report looked at how sexist TV is, basically. The report found that British TV is awash with low-level sexism. There are 30 incidents of sexism an hour being broadcast in prime time, all day, every day. It is no doubt the same the rest of the time, but prime time is what we measured.
We also found that the greatest amount of sexism was in comedy. You might not be that surprised by that, but think back to all the “light-hearted” racism—I am calling it light-hearted—of the 1970s. We would not say that that humour was acceptable now and yet, if you start talking about comedy and diversity and women, people say, “Oh, haven’t you got a sense of humour?”. However, we would not these days say that it was acceptable to think about race in the way that we did in comedy in the 1970s. We need to make some improvement there.
We also need to look at things by genre. Here, we found that in on-screen representation, the group that had the fewest women presenters was sport. In sport, the presenters are 98% male and 2% female. This is truly diabolical when you think that 52% of the population are women. Girls looking at sporting events are not ever seeing themselves engaging, commentating or having anything to do with it. The data help you clearly see where the gaps and problems are. They give you insight, and we all need that.
There is no excuse for not improving on-screen diversity, but as I said off-screen diversity remains far worse. Look at the situation facing women directors and ethnic-minority directors. I hope in future to have the stats for the LGBT community, for disability and for social class. These stats came from Directors UK. Once DIAMOND is up and running, the broadcasters will be able to give us all those stats, for instance around LGBT and disability, although not yet social class, another area where we need to make progress. With those caveats, the recently highlighted stats from Directors UK are truly shocking. Ethnic-minority directors make up just 3.5% of the directing community, despite making up 14% of the UK population, and women, despite being the majority, make up just 13.6% of working film directors. What is even more shocking is that these figures have not budged a millimetre in a decade. We have to think about how slowly we are making progress here.
The Directors UK report looks at why this has happened and outlines all the interwoven factors such as,
“career progression … budgets, genres, critics, audiences and public funding”.
The chair of Directors UK, Beryl Richards, stated that,
“the industry culture leads to vastly different outcomes for men and women”.
This is the bottom line for me—culture.
I would of course like to draw your Lordships’ attention to Channel 4’s 360° Diversity Charter, which deals with that culture, but it is also important that we look at the principle of systemic change. Policies that force systemic change are as important as cultural change. I will just name the principles: transparency; accountability; being data-driven; having systemic change; being genre-specific; and resource. That is what we need and what will make the BBC’s strategy, and all the other diversity strategies, a success.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in this debate and to follow the noble Baroness, Lady King. I congratulate her on getting this debate and on the work she has done in this area. I am going to speak about the work I have been involved with at the Equality and Human Rights Commission—my interests are declared in the register—and the role of sport in this area and its power to transform.
This is in no sense a new issue. When I spoke last year with my noble friend Lord Grade, he said at the Edinburgh TV Festival that he first spoke on diversity in 1973. If it is not new, perhaps what is new is the number of initiatives we currently see coming from all the major broadcasters—BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky. This should give us some encouragement that we are perhaps at a moment in time where significant transformational change can occur, because that is what we are talking about with diversity and inclusion. It is not about protected characteristics per se but about transformational change and how that can be achieved.
If we look at the BBC and the forthcoming White Paper, the potential for diversity to be hardwired into the charter could make such a significant difference to that institution. If we look at ITV’s commitment to inclusive programming, inclusive workforce and inclusive culture it is fantastic for a commercial broadcaster to be doing that. Channel 4’s 360° Diversity Charter, as already referenced by the noble Baroness, Lady King, is a phenomenally significant document.
When I was director of Paralympic integration at LOCOG, I was lucky to do the deal for the broadcaster of the 2012 Paralympic Games. We went with Channel 4 not just because of the job it could do at Games time but because of its commitment to inclusive broadcasting, in front of and behind the cameras. It committed to that right from signing the contract, which demonstrated the absolute need for leadership if we are to get transformational change with diversity and inclusion. That leadership came from its excellent chief executive, David Abraham, and chief marketing officer, Dan Brooke, who led on this and pushed it through every element of Channel 4 so that 50% of on-screen talent covering the Paralympic Games were disabled people. There were similar levels behind the cameras. You could see that in the on-screen portrayals, in the commercial “Meet the Superhumans” and in the fantastic jape at the end of the Olympics when there were Paralympians in the tunnel of the Olympic Stadium with the strapline, “Thanks for the warm-up”. This is what is possible to make inclusion happen and to have transformational change at the heart of what one does.
At the Equality and Human Rights Commission, I was lucky to lead on the work in broadcasting. When we released our guidance, Thinking Outside the Box, at the Edinburgh TV Festival last summer, I was absolutely convinced that I was the only man there not to have a goatee or a crushed velvet jacket but I continued nevertheless. What were we getting at with that guidance? We had the support and funding of the DCMS and the support of my right honourable friend Ed Vaizey. We worked in partnership with Ofcom, the CDN and PACT and had round tables throughout last year, meeting with people right across the industry to get to the heart of it. What are the issues? What are the problems? What are the things which people see as barriers in this area? This fact that people feel things are illegal when in fact, when you get into discussions, they may not be.
We are looking at the use of databases; positive action versus positive discrimination; the Rooney rule—all of these issues and more—awareness schemes across the broadcasters; and work practices. Within the guidance, which I recommend to everybody, Thinking Outside the Box, a number of recommendations are suggested to put to broadcasters on how to address and drive diversity and inclusion throughout our broadcasting industry. As to the use of unpaid interns and networks, if you go down those routes you will always get the same results and people will be able to say, “Broadcasting is a meritocracy”. It is absolutely a meritocracy if you are a white, middle-class, middle-aged man, but it needs to be a meritocracy for everybody.
We need to look at the positive use of targets. Self-imposed targets can be a good thing to drive the correct behaviours in this area. On positive actions against positive discrimination, I mean positive action in the general sense to develop those talent pools from which to draw people, not falling into the trap of positive discrimination which would go across the line. How do we get more disabled people into the workforce of the broadcasters? Some 50% of disabled people of working age do not work. That is unacceptable in the fifth richest economy on the planet. We need to use the guaranteed interview scheme, to develop disability talent pools, as we did when I was at LOCOG, to get that talent in front of people and offer them the opportunity to get into these roles, and not only in broadcasting.
Let us look at ring-fencing. It is possible to have ring-fenced funds for particular characteristics within organisations. This is what Lenny Henry has pushed excellently and which was so well noted at last Sunday’s BAFTAs. Crucially, we need to look at “indies”. Quite rightly, a great deal of production is happening through that sector, where there is great creativity. We are world leaders in producing this stuff but we need to help the smaller production houses to get to grips with how they can really embrace and drive inclusion.
None of this is new. For decades a lack of diversity in British broadcasting has been a stain on all broadcasters. It is not new, but what is different are the alternatives that now exist. If you are a young person coming into the industry for the first time, you do not see programmes made that you want to watch; you do not see programmes that represent people like you. Now, TV is not necessarily the sexiest thing in town. There are alternatives such as gaming or going abroad. Idris Elba goes to the US to be in the programmes that he wants to be part of, which was not possible in the UK. If you do not like what is being made, you can become a producer, a maker, and have millions of followers on YouTube.
British broadcasters must become diverse or die. They must become inclusive or become increasingly irrelevant. This is about nothing other than transformational change. It is not about political correctness or even about doing the right thing: it is simply about competitive, creative edge. So many schemes are out there. I hope that we are at a tipping point because the potential is massive to have all of those voices in the mix. We can have people from every background, belief and geography, disabled people and non-disabled people, with every voice informing, educating, entertaining, reflecting and representing. Every voice should represent, reflect and address that most significant of issues. Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady King for introducing this debate, which is important and always current. It is more than 50 years since the Race Relations Act was passed in this country. In 1965 many people thought that a new dawn had broken. In 1975 we had the Sex Discrimination Act, which sat alongside the Equal Pay Act. The disability lobby, after much innovative and sometimes brave campaigning, saw the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
The disability lobby, after much innovative and sometimes brave campaigning, saw the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The Equality Act 2010 introduced the public sector equality duty designed to require public bodies to consider the possible impact of their decisions on what are known as protected groups. These include, in addition to the groups mentioned above, age, sexuality and religion. All this legislation and yet here we are with masses of evidence that for many people none of the above seems to have entered their psyche.
Just last week there was a piece in the Guardian on a report entitled Cut Out of the Picture commissioned by Directors UK—this is the report that my noble friend Lady King quoted earlier. It is a report about the film industry, but what goes on in film has a knock-on effect and an influence on what is shown on our TVs and what we read in the papers; that is, on how the world is depicted. The findings are pretty shocking, showing that matters on the gender front have barely improved with 11.5% of directors being female in 2005 and a measly 11.9% in 2014. The report covers more than gender parity, calling for an amendment to film tax relief to require all UK films to account for diversity, and an industry-wide campaign to rebalance gender equality. Apparently an equal number of men and women are choosing to study film, but women drop out at every level, particularly as budgets increase. What kind of bias pops into the head of the person with the funds who says, “Be careful here. Mustn’t upset the norm. Let’s stay with the status quo”. Only 3.3% of blockbuster movies were directed by women and yet, at the other end of the scale, 27% of short films with a limited budget had female directors. That sounds like a big and unnecessary loss of talent to me. Publicly funded films have the worst reputation, with the figure for female directors falling from 32.9% in 2007 to just 17% in 2014.
If we turn to TV, the situation is not much better. The female TV population is younger than in real life, with 47% of females being aged between 20 and 39 compared to the real-world figure of 26%. Men on TV outnumber women by six to four, when in reality of course women make up 51% of the population. Other protected groups fare even worse. There is just a 2.5% disabled presence on our screens compared to 20% in the community at large. Older people do no better. For example, there is only 15% representation of women aged over 55—precisely half of that of the real population.
These matters are important not just to demonstrate even-handedness or fair dibs at jobs and possible fame and fortune, although of course all of that is important. What really matters is the message it sends out. For example, how would an Asian woman aged over 60 feel if she never saw a serious representation of herself, be it in a play or a factual programme? The only person we ever see on TV in a wheelchair who is not there to talk about disability or Paralympic sport is Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, who was of course already a TV presenter before he was so shamefully attacked by an al-Qaeda gunman. People who are physically handicapped can be just as capable as anyone else of being an actor or of speaking up generally but somehow it does not happen. Despite the fact that the world of entertainment has always had a significant gay presence, it could only ever be recognised by jokes or innuendo. LGBT actors or presenters being depicted as ordinary citizens would be a welcome change.
Behind the scenes, work is going on to improve the employment levels of the various protected groups. Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom is required to take such steps as it considers appropriate to,
“promote equality of opportunity in relation to employment by broadcasters and the training and retraining of persons for such employment … promote the equalisation of opportunities for disabled persons in relation to such employment, training and re-training”.
The Act also provides that Ofcom must require holders of a TV broadcast licence to,
“make and from time to time review arrangements for: promoting, in relation to employment with the relevant licensee … equality of opportunity between men and women and between persons of different racial groups; and … the equalisation of opportunities for disabled persons”.
The public sector equality duty also of course applies as appropriate. A 2014 survey carried out by Creative Skillset shows that there is room for improvement here, with, for example, only 5% of the workforce having a disability compared to the estimated 11% of all UK employed. Research by Directors UK found that only 1.5% of British TV programmes were made by a black and minority ethnic director, while only 14% of dramas had been directed by women.
In my humble opinion, things will improve only when the current decision-makers see that change will bring some advantage to themselves, or alternatively when they see that not making changes will bring a disadvantage. I do not know enough about the film tax relief mentioned earlier in my speech to say whether such a measure would be possible or would make a difference. I do know, though, that what gets measured gets done and that if the measurement of equalities’ advancement and change were to be taken into account when determining the salaries and bonuses of decision-makers, for example, change would then leap over the horizon. As my friend Lord Morris of Handsworth used to say, we have enough policies to paper the walls of the conference room, it is time to take action. We have had 51 years of legislation and progress has been far too slow. Only bold steps will make change come faster.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady King, for initiating this debate. She has played such a critical and determined role in advancing diversity in broadcasting. Her role as the diversity executive for Channel 4 has been deeply impressive, as well as being a proud mum of four—no mean feat. This debate is timely. First, we are speaking in a city which has had the pride and multicultural self-confidence to elect a mayor who is BAME and Muslim—one of my better second preferences in my history. It is also being held in the week when we are expecting the White Paper on the next BBC charter.
Seventeen years ago, the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, made the first significant attempt by any Minister to address BAME under-representation in the creative industries. He established the Cultural Diversity Network, and in September 2000 at the CDN launch the BBC published its first comprehensive diversity action plan. There is as yet no gold standard in public service broadcasting for driving diversity, but Channel 4 has done more than any other public service broadcaster. It is worth looking briefly at its history.
Thirty-five years ago, Channel 4 demonstrated that it was not difficult to drive diversity. Two of the key elements were institutional commitment from Jeremy Isaacs, the then chief executive, and the leadership and vision of Sue Woodford-Hollick, then the commissioning editor of multicultural programming. They delivered the current affairs series “Eastern Eye”, “Black on Black”, the “Bandung File” and “No Problem”, and then “Desmond’s” about a British black family made and set in Peckham. The resurgence of Channel 4’s commitment to diversity is thanks to the appointment of the noble Baroness, Lady King, in 2009 and the full support that she receives from David Abraham, the chief executive.
I think we are all aware that permanent remits and licence conditions can encourage diversity, but they cannot drive it. Only determined and committed leadership at the most senior level can drive diversity, and so far no other institution has matched the quality of leadership on diversity that Channel 4 has enjoyed. The increase in BAME leaders in Channel 4 from 2014 to 2015 alone is something to be proud of, but I am sure we all agree that there is a long way to go. In March 2014, Lenny Henry gave his now famous BAFTA lecture, which painted an appalling picture of the lack of diversity in UK TV. A week later, here in the Moses Room, my noble friend Lady Bonham-Carter made the point about how critical it is that diversity is at every level: commissioning, editing, presenting and, above all, leading. She set out the following challenge:
“How is this for a fact? Of the key PSB bodies—Ofcom, BBC Trust, ITV and Channel 4—where the Government have some influence, 42 board seats are available, of which just one, a BBC trustee, is not white”.—[Official Report, 20/3/14; col. GC 90.]
She went on to point out that all seats on the Sky board were filled by white appointees. That was the case in early 2014, so with a hopeful heart this morning I checked the details on those same boards, and guess what? I cannot detect any change in the figures, although I am happy to be proved wrong.
Sir Lenny Henry told the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee that there have been 29 BBC diversity initiatives over the past 15 years, so there is no lack of commitment on the part of the BBC. The noble Lord, Lord Hall, has spoken of his vision for a BBC where audiences will see and hear diversity in everything the BBC does. Indeed, the new diversity strategy target for 2020 is ambitious but welcome. At the current time, 48.7% of the BBC workforce is women, and the number of BAME employees is at a record high for the corporation, with approximately 20% in London and Birmingham. The diversity of the entry level schemes at the BBC is encouraging. The 2015 intake of TV production apprentices was 45% BAME. Meanwhile, its 2015 digital journalism apprenticeships are 50% black, Asian and ethnic minority.
However, we all know that the entry level is not the problem; it is the creatives, the leaders and the commissioners. Last week in a Guardian article, already referred to, Simon Albury, chair of the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality, argued that the real figure for UK BAME employment in the BBC, particularly in creative production roles, was 9.2% rather than the 13.4% that the BBC has been suggesting. Does the Minister agree with that analysis or with the BBC’s statistical analysis? Is there a need for greater transparency in this area to ensure that we have as many data as possible?
My second question relates to reduced funding and the top-slicing of the BBC in the context of diversity. If the BBC had to cut staff who deliver on content, how is it possible to recruit and grow diversity? During the coalition Government we strongly opposed the Conservative proposals to take money from the licence fee to fund free TV licences for the over-75s. We argued that government policy should be funded by the Government. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, vetoed the proposal and it did not take place. We are very disappointed that the current Government have now gone ahead, to the detriment of the BBC.
Proposals for further top-slicing or new contestable funding will mean less money for the BBC to spend on its services and will create additional costs. Two-thirds of BBC contents spend is already contested and that figure is set to increase. I ask the Minister: how can diversity be delivered if you are cutting a workforce?
While the Liberal Democrats remain critical and watchful of the BBC on diversity, I should stress, with the White Paper imminent, that we believe it is undoubtedly the best broadcaster in the world. We hope that the White Paper will do nothing to damage that or its reputation.
The print media should not get off the hook on this. A report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, recently published, said that a journalist entering the trade today will almost certainly have a bachelor’s degree, probably a master’s, and will almost certainly be white. If they are women—and 45% will be—they will find themselves less well paid than their male counterparts and less likely to be promoted. Black Britons are under-represented by a factor of more than one in 10.
Given the pessimism that I have laid before the Committee, I should like to end on a more optimistic and upbeat note. I return to the example of the Paralympics and Channel 4. As the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, explained in much greater detail, it is a perfect example of where a media outlet, if it gets its act together, can make a change to perception, understanding and admiration. It can, for people like my 10 year-old, turn people who were previously ignored in society—that is, people with disabilities—into superheroes. It is quite extraordinary and the media are perfectly capable of doing it. I look forward to seeing that and more, especially in relation to race, where the record is very poor at the moment, as well as gender. It will be about time too.
My Lords, I would like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady King, for securing this important debate. This issue is not a minority one. It concerns who we all are today in modern Britain.
Diversity is a very wide topic. I am aware that gender, sexuality, disability, culture, age and religious issues are all important aspects of diversity, but if I may, I wish to focus on racial diversity in the media. Of the UK’s 63 million population, 14% are black and ethnic minority. The media industry is a very influential sector of society, so it is vital that it represents society as it really is. The reality is that Britain is multiracial, and all the better for it. I can still recall watching with disbelief the 1999 British film “Notting Hill”, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. It was a lovely romantic story, but no black people at all were portrayed as living in Notting Hill, which is famous for its Caribbean carnival. It was a major film that was shown worldwide, yet it presented a false image of modern London and modern Britain.
While television is using more black and Asian presenters, the recent report by Directors UK, to which the noble Baroness, Lady King referred, states that the number of BAME directors working in UK TV is “critically low”. A sample of 55,000 episodes drawn from 546 titles found that only 1.29% of programmes were made by black, Asian and ethnic minority directors. That is clearly disgraceful. In some areas such as period dramas, talk shows, panel shows and sketch shows, not a single episode had been made by a BAME director. In the mid-1990s I was a television producer at the BBC at White City. It got to the stage when I asked if it was called White City because everyone else above kitchen level was white.
While at BBC Television, I started presenting early morning newspaper reviews. I would do two each morning, the last being just before the 9 am news on BBC1. In those days Ainsley Harriott would follow with his fantastic food show. I recall that one day a letter came in from a very disgruntled lady stating, “I have just seen a black chap doing the newspapers. I think his name is Taylor. Then there was a black cook who came on immediately afterwards. Please, is the BBC being taken over by black people?”. I believe that Britain has moved on from those attitudes, but every speaker has made the point that we have a long way to go.
It was during that period that I also started in radio and loved presenting shows on BBC Radio 2. I was delighted when the BBC said that I would have my own radio show at 4 o’clock. I said, “Wow, this could not be better. Drive time”. The commissioner said, “Er no, it is going to be 4 am, not 4 pm”. But I did it because I had to learn, and I eventually got a 5 pm slot. I enjoyed it and was delighted to then get a call from BBC Radio London about presenting a show for it as well. I went for the interview and was met by two very pleasant white middle-aged producers. One asked, “Right, John, can you speak Patois?”—remember that this was more than 20 years ago. When I asked why, the producer said, “Well, we have a lot of black listeners these days and we thought it would be good if you could speak Jamaican. Can you do a black voice?”. The producer then attempted to demonstrate by lifting her arm and saying, “Haile Selassie, Rastafari”. I realised that the job was not for me.
The point I am making is that diversity should not be about putting people in boxes. I was a barrister for some years and became the legal adviser to the BBC’s top television gardening show. I went along to Shepherd’s Bush to speak to the independent producer of the series. To my pleasant surprise he was black, from the Caribbean. I did not realise he had been producing that series for well over a decade. When I asked why he did not do any personal interviews to make his success more public, he replied that he was concerned that if it was known that the producer of that middle-class show was black, there could be a backlash against him. He was keener to show that he had green fingers than brown ones. He just wanted the commissions each year. The goal for him was simply to get commissioned without any fanfare. Although I understood and respected his view, I thought it rather sad that he felt he could not come out as being black. As for newspapers, Amol Rajan is the only ethnic minority editor of a national newspaper, the Independent, which I note that recently became available online only. City University’s survey in March this year found that British journalism as a whole is 94% white. Is that right? I do not think so.
For 10 years I was vice-president of the BBFC, the British Board of Film Classification. Although the board treated me extremely well, it was a very white organisation when I first joined. If I achieved anything at all there, at least I encouraged it to place job adverts for the BBFC not only in the mainstream papers but in the ethnic minority newspapers such as the Voice and the New Nation.
Last Sunday evening, we had the BAFTA awards. Apart from the high-profile Sir Lenny Henry, there was a distinct lack of racial diversity among the award winners. However, I did note that there were at least four ethnic minority award presenters. Two of them remarked that BAFTA appeared to be ticking the diversity box. Those comments brought a rather nervous laugh, but it shows that we still have a long way to go where diversity is concerned. As to the programmes that were showcased at the BAFTAs, the ones that had any links to race had names such as, “Refugee Crisis”, “Paris Attacks Special”, “My Son the Jihadi” and “Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners”. These are quality programmes that needed to be shown. All I am saying is that it would be good for the media, especially television, also to portray the successes of minorities in Britain. I know that major broadcasters such as Sky and Channel 4 do take this issue seriously, but it was the BBC that dominated the BAFTAs, so I support Sir Lenny Henry’s call for diversity to be written into the BBC charter. That would be an important signal.
It is also vital that a more diverse pool of programme commissioners is established. Ideas need to be drawn from the widest field possible. I understand that the BBC is developing a diversity creative talent fund, and I welcome that because class is also an issue. Poorer communities have that extra disadvantage in breaking into the media. There is also a place for more training internships for high-potential BAME graduates. I am glad to hear about the BBC Academy and its enlarged apprenticeship and social inclusion initiatives. I sort of fell into the media industry: there was no career path and no mentoring, which I would have appreciated.
I noticed that one of the BAFTA award winners was Channel 4’s “Humans”—a great series. This of course is the hit science fiction TV series about robots. I long for the day when diversity is no longer an issue to be discussed and agonised over. After all, in reality, unlike science fiction, there is only one race: the human race.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady King, for introducing this important debate, and for doing so with such passion and eloquence. I start by congratulating her on the role model that she represents, not only in politics but at Channel 4, the BFI and across the media more generally. I also thank other noble Lords who have spoken today—including my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Prosser and Lady Grender—who reminded us quite rightly of the work that has been done by the Mayors of London over the years, particularly on LGBT issues. The noble Baroness also gave third-party endorsement to the work of Channel 4. It is clear that it is delivering on its important remit of serving minority communities, which is a key feature of Channel 4. It was also good to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor.
It is clear that the old world needs to change and that the media, with its high profile and creativity, can play a vital part. I want to move to a world where ethnicity, gender and disability are not issues and only skills and experience count, for example, when it comes to recruitment, promotion and assessing people for appointments. My ambition is to see a sea change which takes us beyond identity politics and constant talk of quotas and targets.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, gave us some important examples of how things have changed in his working life. Last week, he kindly participated in a full debate on the Floor of the House on the review that BIS has initiated under the chairmanship of another role model, my noble friend Lady McGregor-Smith. That looked at the issues faced by black, Asian and minority-ethnic people in the workplace and how to harness the potential to call on the very widest pool of talent. We talked about the work that we are doing to improve representation of women and BME people on boards. The media could and should be a leader and not a laggard in this area. It is at the heart—
I thank the Minister for her very generous remarks. On the point about the media being a leader, will she join me in congratulating the BBC as the first broadcaster to say that by 2020 50% of the people that it portrays on screen will be women?
I thank the noble Baroness. I was not aware of that. It is certainly a very brave ambition and it is relevant to the debates that we will no doubt be having very imminently on the future of the BBC. The point that I was making is that the media industry is at the heart of a vast creative machine. It is growing by 10%, with exports of film and television approaching £3 billion a year.
I believe strongly that we need to reach a situation where the prospects for BME individuals, for LGBT, for the disabled and of course for women who want to progress in the media are as good as those for their white or male counterparts in the same situation—neither better nor worse. I think we all agree that there is work to do.
The noble Baroness, Lady King, has been very supportive of the Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, in his great efforts to raise the profile of diversity. I pay tribute to Mr Vaizey. He gives government by round table a genuinely good name—he is a modern-day King Arthur. He has been tireless in his work on diversity, especially on BME, and in encouraging the industry to be proactive in increasing diversity both on and off the screen, including in the representation of disabled people. On International Women’s Day, he launched Women in Digital to tackle some of the barriers which mean that women still make up less than 20% of our digital workforce.
The conference that Ed Vaizey held in January raised the wider issue of lack of representation of disabled people in the creative industries. I was very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, made some strong points about disability in acting and more generally. Indeed, she rightly referred to Ofcom’s equality remit. Addressing the problems of the disabled is an important area and I think that it has to be addressed in the glamorous media industry. There is a huge spectrum of disabilities, and individuals encounter unique problems. More needs to be done to ensure that they can contribute and that their voices are heard.
More generally, people who are unfortunate enough to have a permanent or temporary disability tell me again and again how difficult life is. It is a mixture of countless physical and mental barriers—such as bad attitudes, with people looking through you and even avoiding you. It is for this reason that ground-breaking legislation was put through Parliament by William Hague—now my noble friend Lord Hague of Richmond—in the 1990s. That was important—the position encountered when travelling overseas is still worse than here. Broadcasting shapes and reflects our society’s values, so increasing the visibility of disabled people’s impact in the media is essential. I emphasise that because it is not always talked about as much as it should be.
I turn to the BBC. The noble Baroness, Lady King, has expressed some of her reservations. As an ex- businesswoman, I believe in the power of encouragement, so we should applaud the efforts of the BBC, as she has just done, in relation to gender.
The BBC has established a fund to help black, Asian and minority-ethnic talent on and off screen to develop new programmes. It will be accepting more training internships, and it is setting new targets to increase senior BME staff in priority areas.
I welcome the work that the BBC is doing with the Shaw Trust to open up business support roles to disabled candidates. I congratulate the BBC on establishing an independent diversity advisory group, with experts and role models including Sir Lenny Henry—of course, we were all glad to see Sir Lenny celebrated at the BAFTAs, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Holmes—and the noble Baronesses, Lady Grey-Thompson and Lady Benjamin. They, with others, represent quite a challenge to the BBC on diversity, which I think will be helpful and encouraging.
The BBC charter review has allowed Government to look across the whole of the BBC’s performance. It has given us a great opportunity to review the BBC’s approach to diversity and to ask some forthright questions, some of which were repeated by the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. The fact is that the BBC should lead the way in representing the nation it serves, and I can assure noble Lords that diversity will feature prominently in the White Paper which is to be published imminently.
Of course, the BBC is not alone in trying to do better. The noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, mentioned film tax relief and diversity. The BFI led the way with a £1 million fund and the “three ticks” scheme that she spoke of. The Government introduced that tax relief for UK films in 2014 and I think that it has been helpful and good for the industry. Sky, Channel 4 and ITV have also all responded positively. My noble friend Lord Holmes rightly highlighted Channel 4’s 360° Diversity Charter, as well as the work done by David Abraham and Channel 4’s support of the Paralympics. To mention a former competitor, Sainsbury’s also supported the Paralympics. These instances of good practice are to be celebrated. I am also encouraged that partly as a result of the round table process, Channel 5 has now joined the other main broadcasters in taking action on diversity. It is doing various things, including special annual apprenticeships and paid internships.
I want to turn now to the Creative Diversity Network because it is a great example of how the major broadcasters can come together to tackle a problem. The noble Baroness, Lady King, talked about “switching on the lights”, soon to be designated as Project Diamond, which is due to go live this summer. I welcome the project because it will monitor diversity on television, as has been explained, and data are important. As has been said, what gets measured tends to get done—not entirely, but it certainly helps to know what you are up to. It will be critical in allowing broadcasters to judge how well they are doing and whether the targets that they have set themselves are being met. I should also like to mention, as did my noble friend Lord Holmes, the guidance entitled Thinking Outside the Box provided by Ofcom.
My Lords, I was referring to the point made by my noble friend Lord Holmes about Thinking Outside the Box. This guidance, provided through a unique partnership between the EHRC and Ofcom, is part of a range of advice to help broadcasters with fair recruitment, commissioning, broadcasting, programme making and, indeed, procurement practice.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, pointed out, the media getting its act together on-screen makes a huge difference. There are some great examples of where the BBC and the media in general have got it right. The Sunday night series “Under Cover” on the BBC, with Adrian Lester and Sophie Okonedo, would be a good example. Channel 4, as we have said, has been at the forefront of producing popular programmes, including those representing LGBT people like the “Cucumber” trilogy, its well-received transgender series. I also commend Channel 4 Racing—one of my own sporting passions—for pioneering female presenters very early on.
My noble friend Lord Holmes talked about gaming. That caused me to reflect that this is another area for potential transformational change. And we certainly need more female directors such as Thea Sharrock.
The subject of gaming is really important if we are going to keep up with the times. I echo the Minister’s praise of the BFI—I have stated my interest there—but does she think that if it is to encompass gaming it will need to have enough resources to do so?
Of course the BFI has to be well run and properly funded but I was not suggesting that it change its remit. I was saying that the gaming industry is an important and growing part of the media industry, which I spend a lot of time encouraging, and that I think the point was rightly made—for the first time to my mind in this Chamber—that that is an area that should be within the remit of some of the work we are agreeing on.
I also welcome the efforts of the publishing industry with its EQUIP charter, which pushes for better diversity in another industry that is not generally renowned for it. It has brought together publishers, authors and others to make improvements, so that, for example, many employers in the industry now accept CVs without personal data to avoid unconscious bias.
I do not have a great deal to add on funding, top-slicing and ring-fencing, but I am sure we will return to these issues in the coming weeks and months.
I agree with the sentiment of the debate that there is much more to do across the media industries, not only in representation on and off-screen but also in portrayal. Unless more action is taken now, this will become increasingly challenging as audiences diversify further, as the country and demographics change, and as different groups continue to move away from our mainstream media sources. It is in all our hands to improve practice and attitudes. The Government have a part to play, as we have acknowledged, as do business and industry, including the media industries—and, as we discussed last time, as does the education sector and its teachers and lecturers. Led by the Prime Minister, we have set various targets for 2020.
We especially want to increase diversity across the media so that all the UK’s communities feel represented. I believe that our industries can and will rise to the challenge.
Question for Short Debate
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Committee adjourned at 7.06 pm.