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Why has progress on diversity been so slow?
14
Why has progress on diversity been so slow?
All my interviewees expressed dissatisfaction with the rate of progress on
improving the diversity in programmes and in the workforce over the past twenty
years. While it was acknowledged that the broadcasting industry mirrors the
haphazard progress of equality and social inclusion in society at large, there was
a belief that this should not be used as an excuse. It was felt that broadcasters
should lead by example because of the particular power they have to shape
public opinion, create role models and inform the way we think about each other.
It was acknowledged that there have been programmes that succeeded in
reflecting some of the diversity of UK life, but the frustration is that they remain
the exception rather than the rule. There was also regret expressed that
broadcasters had missed many opportunities to lay down better foundations in
the pre-multichannel age when they could still command captive audiences. 
So I asked my interviewees why they thought progress on diversity has been so
haphazard.
It starts at the top…then stops
One of the recurring criticisms from all programme-makers was how the fine
words of their organisation’s top brass didn’t translate into enough action on the
ground. This was particularly true of the BBC, where staff painted a picture of
waves of diversity initiatives washing over the masses who were just getting on
with their day to day jobs regardless.
I see these articles in Ariel (staff newspaper) about diversity or yet
another “vision thing” and I just turn the page. -  Producer
Meetings happen, fine things are spoken, but action doesn’t follow. -
Producer
Diversity is seen as a bolt-on
For most of the past twenty years diversity has been seen as something that was
done by a few people at the margins of the mainstream and this is still largely
true today. In the past both the BBC and Channel 4 had their multicultural
programme commissioners or units that were more or less successful in getting
more diverse programmes and staff into the broadcasting arena. Now the
responsibility has shifted to Diversity specialists but these are seen as people
who are not necessarily equipped for the task.
The Diversity Unit is largely about training - don’t forget it is also
about gender, disability, sexuality, age - so they do some work in
terms of awareness, they do a lot of work in monitoring: soft
compliance, but again how much impact can they have when they
don’t control output and they don’t control recruitment?  - BBC
Senior manager
All the programme-makers at the BBC I spoke to felt the Diversity Unit to
be ineffective and “being seen to doing something” rather than having any
power to change anything. 
The Diversity Unit is seen as the police of the BBC and everyone
hates them. - Producer
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