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Television workers twice as likely to have attended private school

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Ofcom report finds startling lack of diversity among UK broadcasters

Wed 18 Sep 2019

Last modified on Wed 18 Sep 2019

Television workers are twice as likely to have attended private schools compared with other workers, according to a report from Ofcom, which has found a startling lack of diversity among UK broadcasters.

Women and those from minority ethic groups remain under-represented in senior roles in the TV industry in the UK, and disabled people are under-represented in all roles, according to the media regulator’s annual report into diversity and equal opportunities in the industry.

The report, which gathered data from 14 broadcasters, including the BBC and Channel 4, found that people working in television were twice as likely than the average person to have attended a private school.

The data, based on responses from more than 10,000 television industry workers, found that 14% had gone to independent or fee-paying schools, double the national average of 7%. A further 22% went to state schools that selected pupils on academic, faith or other grounds, and 52% attended non-selective state schools.

Ofcom said the evidence suggested that the TV industry was disproportionately recruiting people from private school backgrounds.

“We want a TV industry where differences are celebrated and the door open to all,” said Sharon White, Ofcom’s chief executive. “But the evidence shows that the dial towards full inclusivity is not shifting quickly enough, and we cannot allow progress to stall.”

In terms of family background television workers were found to be also almost twice as likely to have grown up in homes where the main earner held a professional occupation – 60% compared with the national average of 33%.

Ofcom said of the main broadcasters polled the skew towards workers’ parents having a professional background was strongest among those employed by the BBC and Viacom, the owner of Channel 5. It was least pronounced at Channel 4.

Women remain under-represented at a senior level. The proportion of women in the TV industry has fallen to 45%, short of the 47% average across the UK’s working population. The proportion of women in senior management roles stands at 42%.

The BBC this year said it had made strides towards reducing the glaring pay gap between its top male and female talent. Nevertheless, just three of the BBC’s top 10 paid on-screen stars were female – the BBC Radio 2 presenter Zoe Ball, and the TV presenters Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz.

The Ofcom report also found that minority ethnic representation remained low at senior levels, at 8% on average. The proportion of people from minority ethnic backgrounds working across the TV industry remained at 13%.

Disabled people were found to be under-represented, with no improvement since Ofcom’s report last year. The proportion of TV workers who defined themselves as disabled remained at 6%, far below the UK working average of 18%.

The Ofcom report said: “Broadcasters must redouble their efforts to understand their workforces, examine what is working, and strive harder to attract the most talented people into television – whatever their characteristics or backgrounds.”

Ofcom said it aimed, in further reports, to cover the impact of streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video service, on the make-up of the television industry’s workforce.


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