UK broadcasters to miss disability target by seven years

Deborah Williams

UK broadcasters including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky will miss a deadline to increase the number of disabled people working in the industry by seven years, a new review has found.

The Creative Diversity Network (CDN)’s independent review was initiated following the Doubling Disability campaign, which was launched in 2018 and backed by the BBC, ITV, C4, ViacomCBS-owned Channel 5, UKTV and Sky.

At the centre of the initiative was a commitment by the UK’s main broadcasters to double the percentage of disabled people working in off-screen roles across the UK television industry by the end of 2020, later extended to the end of 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, data held by the CDN’s Diamond diversity monitoring system show there has been only a small increase of 0.9% in the proportion of disabled people in off-screen TV production roles, from 4.5% in 2017 to 5.4% in 2020.

If the rate of progress from 2017 to 2020 is maintained, it will be 2028 at the earliest before the Doubling Disability target of 9% is met; and the industry will not be representative of the UK working age population in terms of disability until 2041 at the earliest.

Industry views 

The report also includes an analysis of a survey commissioned by CDN of disabled workers’ experiences within the industry, which found that 83% found conversations about raising access requirements with [potential] employers or clients uncomfortable.

Deborah Williams, CDN executive director and TBI columnist, added that the report had found that “misguided attitudes are still throwing up barriers to entry and career progression at every level.”

She added: “It has been a year that has tested the industry and its ability to adjust to changes both cultural and financial.

“As well as adapting admirably to working in the pandemic, the new measures that have been put in place for better race and ethnicity representation are to be applauded.

“So I’m hopeful that the message about disability will also be embraced: disabled workers are looking for more broadcasting work, which suggests the talent needed to fulfil the Doubling Disability commitment exists.”

The CDN is now introducing a series of targets to accelerate change, including offering training to improve awareness of disability and extending its Train the Trainer programme, aligning with Screenskills for wider delivery.

Access to work advice is also being ramped up, while the CDN will look to increase the number of disabled people being directly consulted on the design and implementation of paid apprenticeship, internships, start-up schemes and other entry routes into the industry.

All six broadcasters said they were committed to the target and working with the CDN to improve disabled diversity, building on initiatives such as the BBC’s £112M ($156m) Creative Diversity commitment.

John McVey, CEO of UK trade body PACT, said: “The report paints a stark picture of the challenges faced by disabled people in our industry. Pact supports the CDN’s aims and initiatives to achieve its Doubling Disability target earlier than the seven years it currently estimates it will take, and is also rolling out its own support for Pact members via the Pact Inclusion Tool, to help make their businesses more inclusive.”

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