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We are taking the right approach to diversity

Tunde Ogungbesan

Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Succession

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The Sun’s front page today claims that the BBC is “anti-white” and suggests we’re offering “telly jobs just for minorities”. It’s a claim I think is grossly misleading.  Let’s set the record straight.

The BBC is not “anti-white”, or anti any other group. That would be against everything we stand for. What we want is an organisation which fully represents the UK on and off air. For us diversity is not just about age, gender, race, ethnicity, disability or sexuality. It’s also about making sure that the BBC is open to all – no matter what your background or where you went to school. This will make us more creative, help us tell stories everyone can relate to, and provide even better content for our audience. That’s not discrimination, it’s simply the right thing to do.

Debate around diversity in the media industry is always passionate. We are making real progress with 13.4% of staff now from an ethnic minority background, compared to 10.6% in 2010. More people also now think the BBC reflects their lives, but we have further to go.

As The Sun themselves recently reported, many people still think the BBC is not doing enough to reflect Britain. We recently set out our ambitions, and how we’ll achieve them, in our new diversity and inclusion strategy. And in its recent White Paper on the future of the BBC, the Government said it would enshrine a commitment to diversity in our next Charter and said the BBC “should be at the forefront of representing diversity both on and off screen”.

We invest heavily in training and development for people of all backgrounds, but in some areas where specific groups are underrepresented, we need to help those people gain the skills and experience they need to fairly compete for jobs in the industry. The two Trainee Assistant Script Editor placements highlighted by The Sun are not jobs but training and development opportunities. And they’re explicitly permitted under the Equality Act as positive action schemes. As guidance recently produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Ofcom says, when a company reasonably thinks that a protected group is underrepresented or faces disadvantage, as we believe they do in script editing roles, positive action such as this is allowed.

Indeed, we have a small number of similar schemes to address the under representation of people from ethnic minorities and disabled people in the broadcasting industry. They are a small proportion of the 270 graduate and non-graduate training roles offered by the BBC across a wide range of BBC departments but we are proud to be taking proactive steps to increase diversity.

Other broadcasters are taking action too. In 2014 Sky pledged that all Sky Entertainment productions would have someone from an ethnic minority background in at least one senior role by the end of 2015 and that 20% of writers on all team written shows across all Sky Entertainment productions in production by the end of last year would be black, Asian or another ethnic minority. And this summer Sky News is running a work experience scheme exclusively for people from ethnic minority or economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

We are taking a fair, sensible and effective approach of targeted action where necessary, while at the same time developing a culture that will make diversity business as usual at the BBC. Judging by the public reaction to The Sun’s story, many people agree.

Tunde Ogungbesan is Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Succession at the BBC.

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