U.K. TV Diversity Report Shows “Lack of Real Progress”


Creative Diversity Network (CDN), the U.K.’s industry body leading the work to increase diversity on- and off-screen within the TV industry, has published its fifth annual report, which shows there is “still a lack of real progress” in terms of increasing representation of underrepresented groups.

The report finds that representation by disabled people both on- and off-screen has remained consistently lower across all genres, all broadcasters and all job roles than the 18 percent of the U.K. population who declare a disability. Disabled people are still making fewer than 6 percent of contributions across most senior roles. Over the past three years, there has been a decrease in contributions by disabled people in the roles of director, producer-director and producer.

Representation by those aged 50 and over has remained largely unchanged over the past five years. In 2020-21, over-50s made 21.7 percent of off-screen contributions and 25.4 percent of on-screen contributions. These are both low in comparison to U.K. population estimates: 36 percent of people in the U.K. are over 50 and 31 percent of the working population is over 50.

Over the last five years, those who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) have been represented well both on- and off-screen. However, most contributions both on- and off-screen over this period have consistently been made by gay men.

The five years of data shows a consistently greater representation on-screen than off-screen across all Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. Off-screen contributions have increased from 9.7 percent in year one (16-17) to 12.9 percent in year five (20-21). However, on-screen representation is much stronger at 20.9 percent in year five. These figures are significantly lower than the larger Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic population in London (40 percent) in London, where the majority of television is produced.

Representation from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups remains particularly low in the roles of director (9 percent), writer (9.6 percent), producer (10 percent), executive producer (7.3 percent) and head of production (9.3 percent).

People who identify as South Asian are the least well represented. Over the last five years, contributions have declined both on- and off-screen and South Asians are significantly under-represented in roles such as director (1.3 percent), writer (1.5 percent) and executive producer (1.3 percent).

In 20-21, Black people remain particularly underrepresented in the roles of director (1.5 percent), writer (1.9 percent), producer (1 percent) and executive producer (0.4 percent).

Women are more likely to be in non-senior roles (56.1 percent) than in senior roles (46.8 percent), where representation has fallen over the past three years from 50.4 percent to 46.8 percent. Women were particularly under-represented as writers (33.4 percent) and directors (26 percent) in 2021.

People who identify as transgender are represented at levels lower than the U.K. population estimate of 0.8 percent. Representation is better on-screen where contributions have varied between 0.5 and 0.8 percent over the last five years. Offscreen representation is lower, at 0.3 percent.

Zai Bennett, managing director of content for Sky UK and Ireland, said: “Whilst we wholeheartedly welcome the commitment of the two new broadcasters joining the Diamond network in 2022, alongside the increase in data collection and the progress made in some areas of this cut of the data; we acknowledge the Creative Diversity Network’s findings that more needs to be done across the TV industry to increase inclusion. We will continue to utilize this crucial data to inform our diversity strategy and to ensure that we see positive change in the areas that Diamond has highlighted.”

John McVay, CEO of Pact, said: “Now in its fifth year, the Diamond reporting system has grown—not only in the volume of data it collects and reports on—but in its ability to influence and shape conversations around diversity in the TV industry. We clearly still have a long way to go, particularly in the representation of disabled people both on- and off-screen, but having such data available can only help us to work harder to improve the situation over the coming years.”

Richard Watsham, director of commissioning for UKTV, said: “Five years of increasingly rich Diamond data is something that should be celebrated, but only in so far as it highlights the areas we must all focus on and the actions that urgently need to be taken. We want more people to engage, not only because the data can be richer still, helping us understand the true intersectionality of our industry, but also because we must accelerate the speed of change. We need everyone on board to build momentum. This report should be an invaluable tool for all decision-makers in TV, so we encourage everyone to get stuck into the detail and talk to us about it. We look forward to continuing the determined and engaged conversations that we’ve been having with our suppliers over the last year.”

Maria Kyriacou, president of Paramount International, Australia, Canada, Israel and the U.K., said: “In the five years since launch, Diamond has built an impressive data set which gives us a much truer picture of the make-up of British television and has allowed us as an industry to work together, and within our organizations, to drive change where it is most needed. It’s clear from this fifth cut data that though we’ve made progress in some areas, we have much work still to do to be truly reflective of society—particularly where it comes to representation of disabled people, on and off-screens, and in the representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people, off-screen. At Paramount we have set out our clear commitment to driving change and a more inclusive culture on and off-screen through our ‘No Diversity, No Commission’ policy and as part of our Disability Action Plan we will be giving extra focus to the representation of disabled talent in 2022.”

Tim Davie, BBC’s director-general, commented: “Diversity is an absolute priority for the BBC. We have plans in place to ensure we truly reflect the public we serve—both on- and off-screen. There is still further to go. Project Diamond provides us with the information and analysis to help all of us in the industry work to common goals and share best practices. The BBC has prioritized £100 million of our TV content budget to drive change over three years which, combined with our 20 percent off-screen diversity expectation for all new commissions, will permanently shift the dial. All audiences, from all backgrounds, will rightly be able to see themselves represented in our programs.”

Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, added: “We are proud of being part of an industry that is unique in having this cross-sector commitment to monitoring, with the aim of improving diversity across all areas of our sector. As a result of the data, in addition to increasing diversity at entry levels, we have also put into action ways of breaking down the barriers to senior-level representation, which remains a critical issue. Part of our Diversity Acceleration Plan, Step Up 60 creates opportunities for people from under-represented groups—people of color and disabled people to progress their careers to more senior positions in the industry. More than 20 percent of ITV’s commissioning team are from an ethnically diverse background and improving representation is now embedded into our commissioning processes. Through disability access passports and ring-fencing opportunities for disabled talent, we hope to make a real difference in accessibility and access in our industry. Making fast progress on disability representation on- and off-screen is a big priority for us in 2022, and our teams are actively looking to nurture disabled talent on- and off-screen on forthcoming projects.”

Alex Mahon, chief executive of Channel 4, said: “Five years on and Diamond data has complemented and strengthened our own diversity monitoring at Channel 4. We’re committed to real and lasting change and we’re working hard to address some of the systemic problems that exist right across the sector and the gaps within our own business. Some of the steps we’ve taken to improve representation include setting targets for our top earners, commitments to triple content spend with ethnically diverse-led indies and creating industry-wide initiatives such as our Engage & Enable strategy to make broadcasting more accessible to disabled talent. While we’ve made good progress, there’s still much more to do. We will never stop challenging ourselves to improve diversity and accessibility to ensure the broadcast sector creates the necessary opportunities to make it truly representative of every community in the U.K.”