Who is going to ensure it gets better?
But it is clear that it isnt going to happen like that. There is a danger that the
strong monoculture that exists in the industry will continue to be as resistant to
change as it has been for the last twenty years unless there is continuing external
pressure. Where is that pressure going to come from?
The obvious place to look is to those responsible for the regulatory
framework in which broadcasters operate. In a draft document produced as
part of its review of public service broadcasting, the media regulator Ofcom
has recently spelled out the ways in which public service broadcasters might
demonstrate how they are fulfilling their obligations on cultural diversity:
Broadcasters should give a separate indication of how their
programmes will reflect the cultural diversity of the UK. Examples of
how this could be demonstrated are:
through the level of use of on-screen and off-screen talent
the range of perspectives engaged
the depiction of different communities.
However, these representations should be underpinned by a
qualitative sense of diversity that demonstrates an approach that
goes beyond tokenism. In particular, therefore, broadcasters should
point to: where their output reflects the contribution of various
ethnic groups to British society; any innovative or creative ways of
achieving that, across various genres; and what commissioning
strategies have been instrumental in delivering diversity to the
Another dimension here would be a review of the scheduling of
culturally diverse programming, or programming targeted at
Other issues of diversity should also be given regard, such as age,
sexual orientation, disability, etc.
This is a very welcome expression of the way we should move forward, one which
does not focus on box-ticking but encourages a proper consideration of the many
factors which make a difference to what appears on air and how that contributes
to the National Conversation.
Ofcom should require a detailed response from broadcasters every year on how
they are fulfilling these obligations. It needs to work with the broadcasters to
agree who the under-represented people are (in detail not just terms like Black
and Asian, and not just in terms of ethnicity) and to require that they establish
strategies to ensure their voices are heard across a multiplicity of programme
The broadcasters annual reports should not just list of a handful of programmes
that they think are diverse but concrete evidence of infrastructural changes that
have delivered diversity on a daily and ongoing basis across their output.
Ofcom should also ensure that broadcasters collect and publish information on
the way in which different voices are being represented. This needs to be done in
a way that is practical and not overly onerous, for example, as part of the
compliance forms that producers already have to complete for each programme.
This information could be collated to demonstrate, for example, the number of
programmes made by people from currently under-represented groups, the time
and channel they were broadcast, the mix of people in the production team, the