The Broadcast Training and Equality Regulator (BETR) has just published the results of its annual survey, looking at how the broadcasting industry is doing in terms of providing equal opportunities based on gender, race and disability.

The report, based on diversity information from 70 broadcasters in TV, Radio and Cable and Satellite, totalling approx. 61000 staff, looked at both workforce data numbers as well as best practice in the industry, considering what strategies work and what don’t.

Highlights from the report include:

A quarter (25%) of Board Members in these companies are women. This is more than double the national average of 12% for FTSE 100 companies, suggesting significantly more opportunity for women to reach board level in broadcasting than in many other industries.
The number of reported employees with a declared disability in these companies remains static at 2%. The real figure may however be higher than this as 12.2% of the industry workforce was reported as having an “unknown” status on disability i.e. have not declared whether or not they have a disability. And UK statistics suggest that there are around 9.6 million people (approximately 15% of the UK population) who could be defined as disabled under the Disability Discrimination Act.
The number of employees from Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups is 11%. Whilst the number of people from BAME groups entering the industry is lower than in some other industries - for both BAME and disabled employees, both groups are represented in similar proportions at all levels of the business. This suggests that the staff retention is much higher and that opportunities within broadcasting for these employees are good, i.e. having entered the industry, they tend to stay – there is good career progression.

Peter Block, Executive Director of the BETR said: “Some of these numbers are very encouraging, especially in terms of women’s representation at board level and career progression for disabled and BAME employees once in the industry. And they also give us a good benchmark against which to measure progress over the next few years.”

As well as workforce date, the Regulator also asked broadcasters to report on what strategies and action plans they have in place to address diversity. Here they looked at the broadcaster’s motivation to improve diversity, the actions taken to improve it and the evaluation of these activities. Scores for “act” were higher than for “motivate” and “evaluate”, suggesting that whilst there is a lot happening on the ground in terms of individual initiatives (e.g. local community projects, internships, bursaries etc.) the approach to Equal Opportunities is more tactical than strategic. And even where there is good top-level commitment to diversity, this does not necessarily translate into good practice throughout all levels of the organisation.

The report also highlights a number of barriers to entering the industry that still exist, to women, people from ethnic minorities and people with a disability. These include:

Informal recruitment practices – where having existing contacts and networks within the industry (which implicitly disadvantages these groups who are less well represented) is still important to gaining entry into it.
Lack of models and mentoring – a lower representation of BAME and disabled employees at higher levels of the business limits the availability of senior mentors from these groups.

Peter Block continued: “Whilst this year’s figures reflect some positive progress, there is still too often a tendency for businesses to view diversity as an add-on. Moving forward, broadcasters need to focus on developing a better understanding at all levels of the business, of the value of a diverse employee base. To do this, senior managers across the organisation, need to take more responsibility for ensuring diversity becomes engrained in the company’s culture, from top to bottom”.