Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Media Diversity

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 11th February 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State 7:30 pm, 11th February 2020

I do, and I am about to come on to the very valid points that the hon. Lady made.

As of 2019, the proportion of women in the BBC was 47%, and the proportion of BAME people was 15%. That is better than the national labour population in general, but it falls behind other public service broadcasters. The proportion of women at Channel 4, for example, is 57%, and the proportion of BAME people is 19%.

As Members will be aware, the BBC charter establishes Ofcom as the independent regulator for the BBC. Ofcom must therefore continue to hold the BBC to account on its diversity requirements. Ofcom’s review of BBC representation and portrayal on TV in 2018 set challenges for the BBC, and the Government expect the BBC to keep working towards being a more diverse and representative organisation and broadcaster.

Ofcom’s responsibility to hold the BBC to account on its diversity requirements is part of its wider role to monitor the diversity of the UK television sector as a whole. Ofcom has a duty to promote equality of opportunity in relation to employment in the broadcasting sector and has powers to ask broadcasters to provide information about their equal opportunities policies and the make-up of their workforce. Ofcom’s findings are published in its annual report on diversity and equal opportunities in television. In its latest report, it notes that 13% of the UK television industry identifies as BAME, which is just above the average of the UK labour market. The number of women—45%—is only just below the average of the UK labour market. It is with disability that Ofcom identifies a real issue, with 6% of the UK television industry reporting as disabled, which falls well below the 18% of the UK labour market. Clearly, more needs to be done in that regard.

A big issue is the availability of data on the diverse make-up of the media industry. Ofcom says that, while gaps in the data are decreasing, the number who report as “undisclosed” is increasing, and therein lies the issue. It is important that, in acknowledging that more could be done to support the industry, we understand that part of that is ensuring we have the available data to support the case for change and to measure success when it comes. Without doubt, UK television should reflect modern Britain, both on and off the screen, and the Government are supportive of Ofcom’s work to drive improvements in that area.

The hon. Lady referred to social mobility, which remains a problem at many media organisations. For example, it was reported last year that only 9% of staff at Channel 4 identified as coming from a working-class background. Even at the BBC, which has the highest number of staff from lower social classes, 61% of staff identify as coming from a higher social class. However, I would like to applaud Channel 4 for taking this problem seriously and acknowledging that it wants to be a place where the doors are open to everyone. This is a difficult problem to tackle. Those from higher social classes have the capital to afford to take low-paid or unpaid internships, to get a foot in the door.

The hon. Lady also asked whether the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will be dissolved. On behalf of myself and the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend Matt Warman, I very much hope that that is not the case, but we will have to wait until Thursday.