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24 September 2014
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Greg Dyke


Diversity in Broadcasting: a public service perspective

Speech given at the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Conference in Manchester

Good morning and thank you so very much for the kind invitation to speak here today. As Director General of the Brown Bavaria Company I was slightly confused to be invited but I'm honoured to be here anyway.

Actually it's great to be in Manchester just now. I understand many of you visited my spiritual home yesterday at Old Trafford.

When I became Director-General of the BBC the only downside was having to give up my role as Director of Manchester United.
My children have still not forgiven me for giving up four season tickets in the Director's box.

In particular Manchester is an especially appropriate venue for this conference given the City's great broadcasting history and, of course, this Summer's Commonwealth Games.

The BBC is proud to be the host broadcaster for one of the world's greatest sporting events. We are looking forward to the challenge of applying our proven outside broadcasting expertise to the Games.

We are also looking forward to bringing the blood, sweat and occasional tears of the Games, the thrills and spills, the drama, to the eyes of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth - and the world beyond.

I hope you all enjoyed last night's dinner and can I add my personal thanks to Bridget Kendal for a typically insightful, thought provoking, but always entertaining, speech. And thank you Eddie for making us all laugh. The story about taking a bullet for Jesus is one I'm sure we'll all use in speeches on many occasions in the future.

I'd also like to take this opportunity on behalf of the BBC to pay tribute to Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. Under George Valarino's leadership as Chair, coupled with the thoughtful, calm and always effective delivery of Elizabeth Smith and her colleagues, the CBA has rightly won a terrific reputation for the great work it does supporting the development of broadcasting across the Commonwealth.

The CBA's tremendous reputation makes me all the more proud that, earlier this week, the Association decided to award the prestigious Elizabeth R Award for the year's most exceptional contribution to public service broadcasting to Baqer Moin, the Head of the Persian and Pashto Services of the World Service.

I, too, know how richly deserved this award is for Baqer. The Persian and Pashto Services have done a brilliant job in providing outstanding life line programming to the people of Afghanistan, with huge impact.

What is particularly impressive about the CBA is the way it manages the trick of meeting the needs of all sorts of different broadcasters - small, medium-sized and large, long established and newly developing, with a range of sources of funding.

In short, the CBA manages to serve diverse audiences - which in a rather convoluted way brings me to the theme of this speech, which is "diversity in public service broadcasting."

So let me begin with a general statement - diversity is an issue no broadcaster - public or commercial - can afford to ignore.

We live in a fascinating, fast changing world in which the traditional institutions – in both the commercial and public sectors – are struggling to keep up with the enormous pace of change. Change which is driven by a number of factors which we all know well - technological, economic, cultural, societal.

One consequence of this speed of change is that all our audiences are more diverse in every sense of the word. The old idea of a homogeneous mass audience who turn onto a particular channel and stayed with you for an evening is long gone. In a world of hundreds of channels any audience loyalty has to be earned.

In this context one of the great dangers for any broadcaster is not to notice as your audience grows away from you in ideas and attitudes.

If I come to a narrower definition of diversity I believe that in the area of ethnic diversity there is real evidence that important parts of the BBC's audience - for example the young - are already some way ahead of us. Ethnic diversity is one of the central defining characteristics of modern Britain - particularly among the young.

For young people in this country today multi-culturalism is not about political correctness, it is simply a part of the furniture of their everyday lives. It just is in the way it wasn't when I was growing up in London thirty odd years ago.

Our aim at the BBC must be to actively reflect that.

If we fail to keep up with the changes happening in our society we will become increasingly irrelevant and there is no greater danger for any broadcaster than that.

But for public service broadcasters there is an extra imperative - not least for those of us who are to some degree at least protected from the pressures and fluctuations of the commercial market.

We are rightly expected to achieve different standards and in particular we have specific obligations to meet the needs and aspirations of minorities and special interest groups.

In Britain everyone is obliged to pay for the BBC and it is my view that that puts an obligation upon us to make sure everyone gets something back.

To achieve that we have to first understand our audiences, recognise their diversity and then act on that recognition by providing genuine diversity of programming.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity.

In the context of the BBC in the last few years our audience research has revealed three areas which give me particular cause for concern.

First, we under-serve the young.

Secondly, many of our services are still seen as skewed towards the South of England.

But this morning I want to talk mainly about the third audience group we under-serve. Ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom disproportionately don’t use our services. Our research shows they don’t think we’re for them.

So why does that matter?

Statistics alone are never enough of course, but taken together they can tell a pretty compelling picture:

*Currently, nearly 7% of the UK population belong to an ethnic minority, however many expect the figure in the new census to be closer to 10%.

*More importantly 30% of these are under the age of 16.

*More importantly still the Commission for Racial Equality estimates that, in 10 years time, 40% of all under 25s in key urban areas will be from an ethnic minority. In London the figure is expected to be higher still.

I'm keen to talk about these issues here today because many British citizens from minority ethnic backgrounds have their roots in Commonwealth countries.

The growing multi-cultural nature of 21st century Britain is a fundamental challenge for the BBC, which has implications for everything we do:

*how we are organised - for example who we employ

*the services we choose to operate

*the content we run on those channels, networks and on-line sites

I want to take a few moments to say something about each of these in turn.

Firstly, the BBC as an organisation.

Two years ago in one of my early speeches as Director-General I identified changing the ethnic diversity of our workforce as a key organisational priority for my time in office.

I think I said something along the lines of "The BBC needs to change dramatically if it is to be a serious player in 21st century Britain."

A little later I was interviewed by a BBC programme and asked if I thought broadcasting in Britain was "hideously white" – I replied I thought the BBC was hideously white and thought no more about it until I found myself all over the front of certain newspapers in this country.

What I meant was that as an organisation we needed to become more open and accessible, and in particular we needed a workforce that reflected the society we serve. I'm often asked does that mean you want racial quotas?

My answer is always no – I want the best, most creative people to work at the BBC and I don't want anyone to get a job solely because of his or her colour.

But at the same time I do want people from different backgrounds and I just don't believe that there aren't creative people who come from different ethnic backgrounds who would bring a great deal to the BBC.

We need talented people whose parents came from Jamaica, were East African Asians or came from Pakistan precisely because they bring us a different experience of modern day Britain.

We want them both for their talents as researchers, producers, lawyers or accountants but also because they bring a different cultural awareness to the one, say, someone like me brings.

We have of course made some progress over the years.

The days of the BBC as the chosen career path for the public school, Oxbridge educated chap, alongside the armed services, the city, the civil service or the Church have rightly been consigned to the dustbin of social history.

And whereas you might have wandered around the BBC twenty years ago and found an organisation which was very male and very white today it is no longer very male.

But there is more to be done, particular in the area of ethnicity, and in that speech two years ago I set some pretty demanding targets for the organisation in making real progress towards a genuinely diverse organisation.

At that time - in Spring 2000 - the BBC had just met its own target of 8% of staff from ethnic minorities, consistent with the proportion in the UK population as a whole.

But given that most of our staff are recruited in the large urban areas where the proportion of ethnic minorities is higher than the average I thought we should and could do better. And by the way the 8% doesn’t include security and canteen staff where you normally find a disproportionate number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

So I set a target of 10% by the end of next year. We are moving quite fast and I'm hopeful we will get there.

Moreover, the numbers of ethnic minority staff in management roles was markedly lower - at something less than 2%. The top of the BBC appeared very white. Here I set a target of 4% and again I'm optimistic we will get there.

Employment and recruitment policies and targets are important but they are only one part of the equation.

We also need to ensure that our services - our radio and television channels and our websites - meet the needs of all our audiences.

That's why in planning the BBC's new digital services one of the determining issues was meeting the needs of those audience groups not currently well served.

Soon we'll be launching 1Xtra, a new digital music station dedicated to playing the latest in contemporary black music to a young audience but, unlike its commercial counterparts, it will have a high speech content – 20% – including its own news service.

The BBC's Asian Network will go fully networked on digital radio later this year with substantially increased investment; it will carry news and current affairs relevant to the Asian community with a significantly higher speech content (50%) than other commercial Asian stations.

On television we have given commitments to the Secretary of State that our new television channels will also be culturally and geographically diverse, reflecting energy and diversity of the multicultural Britain in which we live.

One of our planned TV channels, BBC THREE, will specifically be aimed at younger audiences - that 25 to 34 year age group who, as I mentioned earlier, do not appear to connect with public service broadcasting as currently delivered.

We are still awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State on the future of BBC THREE but, if we are successful in getting approval, I believe it will offer something quite unique for young adults in this country.

News, current affairs, education, music and the arts will account for over a third of new programming for the channel with dedicated news programmes and bulletins every weekday in peak time.

But in particular the channel's programming will reflect the multi-cultural nature of young Britain today.

Just as important though is reflecting the genuine diversity of our society on our mainstream television channels BBC ONE and BBC TWO, both through the types of programming we offer and the portrayal of our society within programmes themselves.

In common with other broadcasters we have looked hard at how we reflect true diversity on air. This is not about political correctness or quotas - it's about artistic and creative integrity, about depicting the world as it is and as people recognise it to be.

It's actually about making better programmes which connect with all audiences.

Let me show a short video, which was commissioned and produced by one of our black staff last autumn to illustrate what I mean.


I love that last line - this is not about altruism but about saving the BBC!

So to sum up:

*Recognising the diversity of our audiences and acting upon that intelligence is essential for all broadcasters in today's world.

*Public service broadcasters bear a particular responsibility in delivering diversity across everything we do.

*At the BBC we don't see this as a chore - a necessary evil - but as a real opportunity to engage with our audiences, something which is central to re-interpreting our public service mission for the digital age.

Which is why I want a BBC where diversity is seen as an asset not an issue or a problem;

a BBC which is open to talent from all communities and all cultures;

a BBC which reflects the world in which we live today not the world of yesterday.

Thank you.


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