Media and Creative Industries: Equality — Question
2:36 pm

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Baroness Benjamin (Liberal Democrat)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure cultural diversity and promotion of equality in the media and creative industries.

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Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative)

My Lords, the Government are committed to ensuring that equality is promoted in the media and creative industries in line with duties set out in legislation, including the Equality and Communications Acts. However, we do not have a role in influencing the content or output of these sectors, which must remain independent of government. Nevertheless, Ministers maintain a regular dialogue on issues relating to diversity and equality. Most recently, that has included increasing the media coverage of women in sport and the representation of disabled people.

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Baroness Benjamin (Liberal Democrat)

My Lords, I thank my noble friend. As Danny Boyle demonstrated in the Olympic opening ceremony, diversity throughout the creative industries is incredibly influential in how modern Britain is portrayed and represented. Unfortunately, at present there is no pan-industry system of monitoring diversity to hold television or other creative sectors accountable and ensure that they attract, retain and increase talent from a range of different backgrounds. What measures are in place to ensure that the creative industries are employing and fulfilling their diversity responsibilities, and does my noble friend agree that standardised monitoring would provide valuable data? Will she work with PACT, UK Music and others in identifying how such measuring systems could be introduced?

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Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative)

My Lords, my noble friend raises an important point. We all want to see ourselves reflected in the media and for that reflection to be accurate in its portrayal. The Government certainly welcome the work by PACT, the Creative Diversity Network and broadcasters to devise a common system for monitoring diversity onscreen and offscreen. We understand that discussions are progressing well between these groups to consider how to standardise a system of diversity monitoring across the industry, and that the first pan-industry measurements are expected to be collected by the end of this year. However, we believe that it is absolutely right that the industry lead this initiative itself. While we look forward to hearing about this system and its results, we have no plans at present to mandate it because we believe most fundamentally in the independence of the media.

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Baroness King of Bow (Labour)

My Lords, I declare an interest as Channel 4's diversity executive. Further to the earlier Question, I wondered if the Minister was aware of the lack of social diversity in terms of social mobility and social background in the media. Will she support broadcasters that are going out beyond non-traditional backgrounds, and particularly beyond non-media hubs, to find young people from those backgrounds who are not so much involved in the media industry at present?

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Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative)

I share the point that the noble Baroness has raised. I am aware that the BBC, which is the main public service broadcaster, has the largest responsibility to ensure that it is reaching out to new people in terms of its workforce. There are a couple of schemes that the noble Baroness may or may not be aware of. A BBC apprenticeship scheme has recruited over 50 apprentices in the past 18 to 20 months, 30% of whom were from the black and minority ethnic communities. The BBC's work experience scheme has ensured since January 2011 that 60% are from BME backgrounds, and of those 21% have secured paid work at the BBC. The latter scheme has been recommended for an award for extending diversity in the workplace.

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Viscount Clancarty (Crossbench)

My Lords, do the Government accept that cultural diversity in the creative industries will have significant roots in school education? If so, will the Minister say what they are doing to encourage every child, whatever their background, to have the best possible education in art and design subjects?

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Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative)

The noble Earl raises an important point about how we can ensure that people's aspirations at school are broadened and increased to include areas which might not be most obvious to them. I certainly support that. I do not have a specific response to the noble Earl on his question, but I will see whether I can follow up in writing.

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Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Conservative)

My Lords, following the question from the noble Baroness, Lady King, I wonder if the Minister is aware that not only the young but also the old need to be cared for. Is she aware that the media, and particularly the BBC, are very short of women over 50 at the moment? Does she not think that it is time that that was brought under control a bit more?

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Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative)

As I said in response to the first question, it is important for all of us to see ourselves reflected in the media, whether that means people who come from the area that we come from or people who are of a similar age. The most important point is that the broadcasters themselves should acknowledge the issue and take action. I was certainly heartened when the last director-general of the BBC was willing to acknowledge that there was a problem and took steps to improve the situation.

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Labour)

My Lords, does the Minister not think it would be a real contribution if the GREAT campaign, which has had such a success, were to include diversity as one of the issues that we celebrate in this country and promote to others to emulate?

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Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative)

The noble and learned Baroness raises a very interesting point and I would find it hard to disagree with what she suggests. I will certainly take back that recommendation to the department.

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Baroness Thornton (Labour)

The issue of older women in the media has already been raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, and she is quite right. I am sure that this House appreciates that the new generation of older women in the media does not fancy the idea of being written off and regarded as past it when they are 60, 50 or even 40. Can the Minister go into more detail about how the Government intend to monitor this situation and what they intend to do about it?

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Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Conservative)

The system of monitoring that I referred to in answer to my noble friend Lady Benjamin's Question, which the broadcasters are in discussion about at the moment, will include age as well as ethnic diversity. It is up to the broadcaster to gather that information and to make it transparent. We share the principle of transparency, which is why we have introduced the Think, Act, Report initiative about diversity in the workplace more generally.