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BBC to Increase its BME Representation Amid Criticism for Lack of Diversity in Media

The BBC has recently revealed its plan to increase diversity among its ranks on and off the air. The broadcasting giant is targeting a 5% increase on its on-air black and ethnic minority (BME) representation within 3 years, according to a press release posted on BBC’s site last June 20, 2014. That means that one out of six on-air staff of BBC is an individual with a BME background, a diversity rate of 15%.

Lord Tony Hall, BBC’s director general, also said BBC is also planning to increase diversity among its off-air ranks by 2017. UK’s largest broadcasting corporation also revealed its plans to diversify its senior leadership rank’s BME representation to 15% by 2020.

The BBC claims that they have allotted £2.1m to fund its diversity push. Among the programmes that will facilitate BBC’s search for BME talent is its Assistant Commissioner Development Programme, which includes a one-year free internship aimed at attracting young people from various ethnic backgrounds.

The UK’s journalism industry has been constantly criticised for lack of diversity. The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) released a report last 2012 which revealed that 94% of journalists in the UK come from a white ethnic background. Green Park, a top executive recruitment consultancy, released a study on February 10, 2014 that showed that the finance and banking sector is more ethnically diverse than the media. Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) said that BMEs make up only 10% of the audio-visual workers in London even though a quarter of the total workforce in London is composed of persons with BME backgrounds.

Last April 18, 2014, comedian Lenny Henry voiced out his displeasure in the apparent lack of diversity in the British TV industry. Henry vowed to lead a mass protest of Parliament and has supported calls for boycotting BBC’s license fee. The comedian has called for more funding to boost diversity in the media.  

The BBC’s diversity plan is one of the first in the industry. Lord Hall mentioned that the BBC is open to getting people with talent regardless of their background. The BBC director general further stated, "I want a new talent-led approach that will help set the pace in the media industry.”


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