Ofcom is to launch an annual monitoring scheme designed to hold broadcasters to account on diversity.
The move was announced by Sharon White, the regulator’s CEO, speaking in London at a debate on diversity organised by Ofcom and Sky.
White said: “We will be looking at diversity data across the broadcasters we regulate helping us to get the most comprehensive picture yet of how well each broadcaster is doing.
“This is an important step towards greater transparency and greater accountability.”
Ofcom aims to collect a range of information regarding the diversity of people employed by broadcasters and gauge what steps are being taken to monitor diversity.
The regulator would look at the strength of each broadcaster’s commitment to improving diversity “at different levels of the organisation” and see if targets are being met.
Data will be collected in 2017 with the first report published by next summer.
From April Ofcom begins regulating the BBC following the abolition of the BBC Trust.
For the first time new BBC Charter enshrines a new commitment to diversity.
New portrayal targets will be introduced to ensure that 15% of lead roles go to BAME actors by 2020, and 50% of lead roles go to women.
Fifteen per cent of senior leadership roles will be reserved for BAME applicants, 10% for LGBT, and 8% for disabled staff.
The aim is to have a gender balanced senior leadership team in place at the BBC by 2020.
Said White: “Given the BBC’s unique position in the UK, it’s right that it is held to the highest standards and sets an example to the rest of the industry.”
“Without a minimum requirement it is a bit like having a high jump competition without a bar”
Ofcom has also launched a new dedicated online resource to provide practical help to broadcasters to improve their record on diversity.
She said that UK society had never been so diverse. Fourteen per cent of the UK comes from ethnic minority backgrounds, six per cent were LGBT, while there were seven million people of working age with a disability.
As we are all living longer, there were also more elderly people too.
She said that broadcasting both reflects but also shapes the values that we hold as a society.
“We now that we’ve still got some way to go. A number of groups struggle to get into the business,” said White.
“Once they’re in, they struggle to get on. It’s opened up a bit of a gap between the people who make TV and radio, and the audiences who watch and listen to it…
“These failings are a stain on all of us in the industry.”
“I think we are beginning to see some positive change,” added White. There were grounds for “cautious optimism.”
Lenny Henry, another speaker at the conference, said attitudes to diversity in broadcasting were “on the brink of a massive change.”
It was important for Ofcom to publish independent and impartial statistics on diversity, said the actor and comedian.
“We can’t just tick our own homework anymore,” said Henry, referring to broadcasters' own self-monitoring of diversity.
Ofcom also needed to define what diversity means and so repeat what the regulator did in defining precisely what is meant by programme making in the nations and regions.
He called on Ofcom to set “some minimum standards.”
“If diversity is now a requirement of the BBC Charter we need to know what is the minimum level the BBC has to achieve in terms of staffing and production to meet that Charter requirement,” said Henry.
The Charter was specific in requiring the BBC to broadcast a certain amount of hours in genres such as news and current affairs. Diversity needed to follow suit.
“Without a minimum requirement it is a bit like having a high jump competition without a bar,” said Henry.
Breaking Boundaries, Diversity in Broadcasting, was held at Sky Television, November 1. A full report will be published in the January edition of Television.