Diversity in Broadcasting: a public service perspective
Speech given at the
Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Conference in Manchester
and thank you so very much for the kind invitation to speak here today.
Director General of the Brown Bavaria Company I was slightly confused
to be invited but I'm honoured to be here anyway.
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.
Manchester is an especially appropriate venue for this conference given
the City's great broadcasting history and, of course, this Summer's
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
me begin with a general statement - diversity is an issue no broadcaster
- public or commercial - can afford to ignore.
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.
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.
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
Ethnic diversity is one of the central defining characteristics of modern
Britain - particularly among the young.
people in this country today multi-culturalism is not about political
correctness, it is simply a part of the furniture of their everyday
just is in the way it wasn't when I was growing up in London thirty
odd years ago.
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
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.
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
that we have to first understand our audiences, recognise their diversity
and then act on that recognition by providing genuine diversity of programming.
both a challenge and an opportunity.
context of the BBC in the last few years our audience research has revealed
three areas which give me particular cause for concern.
we under-serve the young.
many of our services are still seen as skewed towards the South of England.
morning I want to talk mainly about the third audience group we under-serve.
Ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom disproportionately dont
use our services. Our research shows they dont think were
does that matter?
alone are never enough of course, but taken together they can tell a
pretty compelling picture:
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.
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.
to talk about these issues here today because many British citizens
from minority ethnic backgrounds have their roots in Commonwealth countries.
multi-cultural nature of 21st century Britain is a fundamental challenge
for the BBC, which has implications for everything we do:
are organised - for example who we employ
we choose to operate
we run on those channels, networks and on-line sites
to take a few moments to say something about each of these in turn.
Firstly, the BBC as an organisation.
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 said something along the lines of "The BBC needs to change dramatically
if it is to be a serious player in 21st century Britain."
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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% doesnt 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.
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.
and recruitment policies and targets are important but they are only
one part of the equation.
need to ensure that our services - our radio and television channels
and our websites - meet the needs of all our audiences.
why in planning the BBC's new digital services one of the determining
issues was meeting the needs of those audience groups not currently
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
particular the channel's programming will reflect the multi-cultural
nature of young Britain today.
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
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.
about making better programmes which connect with all audiences.
show a short video, which was commissioned and produced by one of our
black staff last autumn to illustrate what I mean.
that last line - this is not about altruism but about saving the BBC!
the diversity of our audiences and acting upon that intelligence is
essential for all broadcasters in today's world.
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
why I want a BBC where diversity is seen as an asset not an issue or
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.