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Diversity at the BBC

Tunde Ogungbesan

Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Succession

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Today the BBC’s record on reflecting the diversity of the UK will be debated in Parliament. It’s a debate I welcome.

The fact that three hours of time has been set aside in the House of Commons to discuss the issue shows it is a conversation worth having and one we mustn’t shy away from. It’s a conversation that takes place in every corner of the BBC every single day.

David Lammy MP and other campaigners are clearly passionate about the issue. So am I. We all want to get the same result: a BBC where all our audiences can see their lives authentically portrayed in our programmes, where our shows are made by a broad range of people, and where your background - whatever it is - is no barrier to a successful career here.

A major part of the debate is how we get there. I believe our approach of embedding diversity at the heart of everything we do is working. We are making good progress and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far.

The BBC is a diverse organisation, whichever way you look at it. Almost half [48.5%] of our workforce is made up of women and the proportion of our black, Asian and other ethnic minorities in our workforce is at an all-time high of 13.1% - above the 2011 census ratio of the population as a whole (12.9%) and well on the way to meeting our target of 14.2% by 2017. In fact, it is much higher in areas where there is are significant ethnic minority populations: 19.8 % in London and 20.4 % in Birmingham and the proportion of BBC leaders from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds has increased from 6.1% in 2011 to 9.1% in 2015.

It’s clear that the BBC is making a difference on air too.

In the last week alone we’ve had Undercover, The A-Word and How To Stay Young on BBC One, Employable Me and the People vs OJ Simpson on BBC Two and the fantastic Murdered By My Father showcasing new writing and acting talent on BBC Three. And this is just a snapshot.

And our diverse range of talent features prominently in the recent BAFTA Television Awards Nominations with Idris Elba, Ruth Madely, Romesh Ranganathan and Jevone Prince all shortlisted.

But there is more to do and we know the challenge we face so we’ll be building on this strong platform by continuing doing what works like The Senior Leadership Development Programme, the £2.1m Diversity Creative Talent Fund, The Assistant Commissioner Development Programme and the Creative Access Graduate Trainee Intern scheme which have all being given funding to continue.

Later this month we’ll be launching our new diversity strategy full of new and innovative ideas for our audiences, for our people and with our partner to do even better between now and 2020.

People will continue to have their views on whether we are taking the right approach. We will listen to them and the Director-General has been clear that if what we are doing now does not achieve the results we want, then we remain open to other ideas.

To make sure we are on the right track we continue to be challenged by our Independent Diversity Advisory Group of experts and cultural leaders, such as Sir Lenny Henry and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

We will of course be judged by the quality of our content and progress against the ambitious targets we have set for ourselves. I’m confident that we will meet the high expectations our audiences rightly have of us and ensure the BBC really is for everyone.

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

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