Entertainment & Arts

Diversity commitment should be in BBC charter, minister says

BBC Director General Tony Hall with members of Creative Access, the charity that helps to tackle the under-representation of ethnic minorities in the media
Image caption Director general Tony Hall has said the BBC has made 'real progress'

The government should force the BBC to improve its diversity by inserting a clause into its new charter, according to broadcasting minister Ed Vaizey.

Mr Vaizey said there was a "woeful lack of diversity on and off screen" across all British broadcasters.

He said: "The BBC can make a massive, massive difference in this area."

The government is currently negotiating with the corporation about its new royal charter, which will come into force at the start of 2017.

"It's a publicly-funded broadcaster... It is a leader and it can make a massive impact. So I certainly on a personal level will want to debate that as part of charter renewal," he said.

Inserting a diversity commitment in the BBC charter "could potentially happen", he told the Salford International Media Festival.

"But lots of people get involved in charter review - it's not written by me in my back bedroom. If it was it would contain strong commitments on diversity."

'No more excuses'

The lack of diversity is "a problem across the board", Mr Vaizey said, warning the TV industry that "there are no more excuses".

He told delegates: "We do need to see a lot more progress right across our creative industries, where there is still woeful underrepresentation."

But he stopped short of putting a figure on the minority representation he would like to see, or saying broadcasters should work to a quota.

"My concern about quotas is it ends up moving the debate into a cul-de-sac - it becomes a debate about whether you should have quotas or not rather than a debate about the woeful lack of diversity on and off screen," he said.

Last year, the BBC announced a plan to increase black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation on air from 10.4% in 2013 to 15% by 2017, and to increase the portrayal of disabled people from 1.2% to 5% in the same time.

But actor Lenny Henry responded by saying there had been "29 initiatives at the BBC in the last 15 years and numbers (of people from BAME backgrounds working in the industry) have gone down".

This July, director general Tony Hall said "we have begun to make real progress" toward the targets.

In response to Mr Vaizey's comments, a BBC spokesperson said: "Our submission to the government's consultation on charter review clearly says that representing all audiences is a priority for us and that progress has been made, but we want to go further and believe our ambitious range of plans will make a real difference to diversity on and off air."

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