Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Radio report out

Ofcom says industry-wide action is needed by radio broadcasters in a new Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Radio report.

Ethnic minorities, disabled people and women all under-represented in UK radio, with many broadcasters unaware of the wider make-up of their workforce.

Ofcom’s report reveals for the first time the scale of the diversity challenge facing the sector. It covers 16 organisations with more than 20 employees and focuses on three of the main radio broadcasters – the BBC, Bauer, and Global.

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.

The study spans nearly 9,000 staff across the industry, and finds that:

  • ethnic minority employees make up 6% of the radio workforce
  • 5% of radio roles go to people who consider themselves disabled
    women occupy 37% of senior management roles in radio
  • many radio companies do not fully understand the wider make-up of their workforce, collecting too little data, or none at all

Among the 16 companies surveyed, six provided data on their employees’ age; four on religion or belief; and two on sexual orientation.

Although all organisations provided Ofcom with information on employees’ gender, only 11 of the 16 submitted ethnicity and disability data. Even then, many had gaps in the information they provided. As such, the radio industry failed to report on the ethnicity of 9% of its workforce, while disability data was missing for 38% of employees.

The BBC offered the most complete set of data. It was the only organisation to provide full or partial information across all six diversity characteristics.

Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “Radio is a powerful, personal medium, with an unrivalled ability to inspire loyalty and speak directly to its audience.

“Our radio industry must reflect the breadth of modern society and offer listeners engaging shows that speak directly to their lives and experiences. And to do this effectively broadcasters must take further action to attract a wider range of talent, both on and off air.”

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 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.

Disability data is missing for 38% of the radio industry’s workforce, and so it is difficult to draw absolute conclusions. The data 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.

Paul Keenan, CEO Bauer Media UK & The Nordics: told RadioToday about the report: “Bauer welcomes Ofcom’s work around diversity and equal opportunities and is fully committed to meeting the challenges it sets to deliver further diversity and inclusion within our radio business.

“Whilst we have a number of existing initiatives across our organisation we recognise there is more we can do to increase our diversity and will engage our people, Ofcom and the Radiocentre to achieve industry leading targets.”

Ofcom says: “Today’s report shows that some radio organisations have started to make progress in improving representation, introducing company-wide diversity and equal opportunities initiatives. Valuable lessons can also be drawn from grassroots community radio stations, which are embracing diversity and inclusion through innovative training, recruitment and editorial initiatives.

“But overall, too many broadcasters are failing to fully understand or address the diversity problem, and industry-wide action is needed.

Ofcom now expects all radio broadcasters to:

  • regularly measure and monitor the make-up of their workforce to a consistently high standard, capturing every relevant protected characteristic under the Equality Act
  • set clear diversity targets so their employees more accurately reflect modern society
  • ensure diversity transformation is led from the top, with Chief Executives accountable for delivery against their diversity targets.

As part of the workplan to support industry action on diversity, Ofcom will:

  • work with radio broadcasters to help them to improve the quality of their workforce data and develop their equal opportunities arrangements
  • chair industry discussions on diversity and related issues such as social mobility, to share experiences and effective practices
  • further develop its diversity guidance for broadcasters, informed by an ongoing monitoring of broadcasters’ progress

Today’s report follows a similar analysis of diversity in UK television, which will be updated in the autumn. Both are part of Ofcom’s monitoring programme to ensure that UK broadcasters are held to account on their equal opportunities obligations.

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