Directors UK is campaigning to address the acute under-representation of black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) directors across the UK film and television industry.
Our national broadcasters have an obligation under their operating licences to reflect the society we live in, both on and off screen. However, our latest report, launched in September 2018, reveals that despite the fact that 14% of the UK population consists of people from ethnic minority backgrounds, just 2.22% of our TV programmes are made by BAME directors.
In response, Directors UK is calling on broadcasters, productions companies and Ofcom to take a number of bold steps that will help remove the career barriers that BAME directors face, and secure an industry that better reflects modern Britain.
Our previous report was launched in 2015 and revealed just how few of the television programmes we watch are directed by BAME directors. Since we published those findings, broadcasters have made bold statements of intent and publicised wide-ranging diversity and inclusion strategies.
Directors UK is campaigning to ensure that these commitments translate into positive action, enabling all programme makers – including directors – to better reflect the rich and diverse ethnic make-up of their viewing audiences.
This is why we have now launched an updated report for 2018: Adjusting the Colour Balance: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Representation Among Screen Directors Working in UK Television.
This report highlights the overall negligible rate of progress that has been made since our first investigation. Our findings did reveal that where targeted career interventions have taken place there has been a notable increase in BAME representation, but these improvements can only be seen within specific programmes and subgenres and are far from the far-reaching change the industry needs.
In response, our report sets out a number of hard-hitting recommendations to be undertaken by broadcasters, production companies and Ofcom to improve career access and opportunities for BAME directors.
These recommendations include a call for diversity targets to be set and tracked through mandatory monitoring, and for broadcasters to commit 0.25% of their commissioning spend for all programme making to fund targeted career development programmes and industry access schemes.
Adjusting the Colour Balance: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Representation Among Screen Directors Working in UK Television
Our report analysed 47,444 episodes broadcast between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2016 on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. This encompassed the work of 4,388 individual directors.
We found that:
- From 2013 to 2016, the number of episodes directed by BAME directors rose by just 0.11 percentage points.
- Just 3.6% of the UK television directors featured in our dataset came from BAME backgrounds.
- No broadcaster made a notable improvement on diversity from 2013 to 2016.
Focusing on specific genres, our report found little or no improvement in the percentage of episodes made by BAME directors in factual television, where there was a 0.3 percentage-point decrease. While in the multi-camera/entertainment and children’s genres there was an increase of just 0.1 percentage points.
Our research revealed a larger upturn in drama and comedy, which increased by 1.5 percentage points, from 2.6% in 2013 to 4.1% in 2016.
Following on from our previous report, Directors UK has been working in partnership with broadcasters to place BAME directors into a number of on-set training and work placements. We believe the rise in drama and comedy is due, in part, to the introduction of these workplace interventions, which provided opportunities for under-represented groups in continuing drama/soaps (where there was a 3 percentage-point increase), and single drama (up by 3.6 percentage points).
Following on from this lack of tangible progress and the need for a widespread approach to targeted career programmes, we have made a series of recommendations to be undertaken by UK broadcasters and Ofcom to help improve equality, transparency and accountability.
1. A new Ofcom requirement that calls on broadcasters to collect characteristic data for senior production roles
Existing diversity information collected by Ofcom does not contain comprehensive data surrounding freelance programme makers. We are calling for Ofcom to make it a mandatory annual requirement for all UK broadcasters to monitor and publicly report on the diversity characteristics of all those making programmes for them. This reporting must include both permanent staff and freelancers.
Specifically, we would like to see broadcasters monitor and publish diversity data on senior production roles, in particular directors.
This transparency within individual roles will make broadcasters accountable to their equality, diversity and inclusion actions and commissioning goals and identify areas of concern that can be positively addressed. It will also prevent the lack of diversity among directors being lost or hidden in overall monitoring statistics.
2. Require Ofcom to set targets for TV crews to reflect our population profile
We call for Ofcom to set broadcasters targets to use production crews whose gender, ethnic and disability makeup mirrors that of the UK population, both in front of and behind the camera, by 2020.
Broadcasters should be required to show evidence of initiatives undertaken year on year to improve diversity and inclusion among directors as well as presenting statistical results.
3. Recruit TV crews from a wider pool of talent using fairer practices and ensure employers have unconscious bias training
We call on broadcasters to take practical measures to improve the diversity of their programme makers, in particular directors, and to build the following provisions into their commissioning contracts:
- Unconscious bias training for everyone in hiring or hiring approval positions in broadcasters and production companies.
- A commitment to regularly bring commissioners, production companies and freelancers together to network to improve job mobility within the industry.
- A commitment to fairer recruitment practices in line with other industries to improve equal access to opportunities for all, including gender and BAME workers; in particular, externally advertising roles and the introduction of written references for freelance production staff.
4. Require broadcasters to commit 0.25% of their commissioning spend to fund career development
For all broadcasters to commit 0.25% of their commissioning spend across all programme making as a levy to fund industry access and career development schemes for under-represented groups. Currently only high-end drama and children’s programmes are part of industry training levies.
The campaign team has met with broadcasters to discuss their progress in diversity representation, and we continue to monitor broadcaster reports, initiatives and commissioning guideline so we can hold them to account when they fail to deliver.
The campaign continues to lobby key organisations across the industry to ensure that:
- Commissioners and production executives responsible for hiring share responsibility for improving the employment of BAME directors
- There is a consistent monitoring of the freelance workforce throughout the industry
- Standards of fair selection (such as written references) applied to permanent staff are extended to freelancers
- Broadcasters and production companies work with Directors UK to develop initiatives that provide real employment opportunities and progress careers
- Behaviours that disadvantage BAME directors are effectively managed through HR training and stop the risk-averse culture that keeps hiring the same directors
We will continue to work with our Board, membership and relevant stakeholders to gather insights into the day-to-day challenges of BAME directors working in television. Using our findings, we will work with the industry to make practical changes. Continuing a dialogue with organisations that can change the hiring narrative means we have an opportunity to suggest and support real solutions to the challengers facing our BAME members.
Members are invited to continue to contribute and help develop the campaign by contacting our Campaigns Engagement Manager Natasha Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The previous phase of the campaign
In 2015 our report Adjusting the Colour Balance revealed the acute under-representation of BAME directors in UK TV.
- Only 1.5% of all the programmes in that report sample were made by BAME directors.
- BAME directors made up just 3.5% of the directing community.
The report explored career barriers and unconscious bias and made some recommendations on how change could be created. These included setting clear diversity targets, improving the transparency of recruitment, better monitoring, creating more BAME role models and ensuring there were opportunities for entry, training and career progression. That work produced a number of positive outcomes.
- Channel 4’s 360 degree charter was developed in the wake of our findings. It required their independent production partners to help deliver diversity in front of and behind the camera and made their commissioners responsible for achieving diversity goals.
- In 2016 Channel 4/ Lime Productions ran a 9-week mentoring scheme on Hollyoaks and 2 of the 9 mentees were of BAME origin.
- Casualty, Holby City and Doctors (plus River City, which is not measured here) joined forces with Directors UK and Creative Skillset to create directorial opportunities through the BBC New Directors initiative. In 2016, the scheme reported that overall of the 24 Directors it had worked with 33% (8) were of BAME origin.
Also, in response to the industry calls to monitor freelancers from several organisations, the broadcasters joined forces with the Creative Diversity Network in 2016 to start collecting equality, diversity and inclusion data under the scheme ‘Project Diamond’. Though database completion or publication of data by broadcaster is not yet obligatory, having an infrastructure to capture the data remains move in the right direction towards more effective monitoring.