Ofcom’s Diversity and Equal Opportunities Report: a view from Siobhan Kenny
Ofcom recently published its diversity and equal opportunities in radio report following an unprecedented industry-wide survey. It’s been very interesting to see the data – broadcasters were required to provide Ofcom with information on the make-up of their organisations, with data on the gender, ethnicity and disability status of their employees being mandatory, while age, sexual orientation and religion were voluntary. Only organisations with 20 or more employees were required to respond to the survey. Predictably, the radio landscape – much like the rest of the media industry – underrepresents women, ethnic minorities and disabled people. What’s more, the report found that too many broadcasters do not sufficiently understand the make-up of their employees and collect too little diversity data or none at all, which means it is very difficult to get an accurate view of the way things really stand. The report’s analysis of the UK radio sector recognises the unique element of radio which partially explains the results – local radio stations tend to be based in the areas in which they broadcast, and as some regions have lower ethnic minority representation than others, this can impact on how well broadcasters can improve their diversity overall. However, Ofcom has recognised that overall there is more to be done to improve diversity within the industry. At Radiocentre, we have been working with the entire sector for some time in order to address the issue head on, including collaborations with partners like the Creative Diversity Network, Creative Access, the BBC, the Advertising Diversity Task Force, Creative Skillset and the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion. Ultimately, we understand that broadening the diversity of radio behind the scenes will allow us to better cater for our diverse audience – and we are very pleased to see that our work in this regard has been observed in the Ofcom report. Our members have also launched a host of initiatives that can increase diversity: Global, which owns radio stations Heart, Capital and Classic FM, recently launched the Global Academy, a state-of-the-art school for young people looking to get into broadcasting. Bauer, which owns Kiss and Absolute Radio, also has an academy spread over 22 locations around the UK providing industry-based training for individuals and businesses allowing anyone, even those currently in other industries, to retrain and gain a qualification in the media. Most recently, Radiocentre and The Radio Academy have launched the Young ARIAS, an exciting new awards program specifically for under-18s, building on the success of the Audio and Radio Industry Awards (ARIAS). The Young ARIAS will provide young audio talent with a chance to gain exposure and a better understanding of the radio industry, with the winners and institutions that support them offered mentoring, tours of studios, work shadowing and advice about breaking into the industry. These projects give young enthusiasts from all backgrounds a chance to break into the industry – crucially, not just those privileged enough to have a parent or family friend already working in it. We will engage with Ofcom shortly on the results and continue to work with industry on addressing this issue before the next survey in 2019. There’s plenty of work to be done but we are already working hard to make sure that the report is more complete next year, and I have spoken with the BBC about a joint industry event so we can highlight industry-wide engagement in future. The diversity issue is one that affects all of us working in radio, and so a collaborative approach is essential to bring the vibrancy and variety of our listenership into the heart of our workforce too.