Ofcom’s Sharon White said there should be “tougher, stronger” regulation to ensure the BBC and other broadcasters reflect the diversity of the UK, and did not rule out imposing quotas to achieve that goal.
Speaking just weeks before Ofcom takes over regulation of the BBC, White told the Oxford Media Convention the corporation must lead on diversity: “Too many older people, especially women, feel they’re negatively portrayed on TV … People from a minority group – whether a distinct region of the country or a particular ethnicity – feel that they are neutrally portrayed at best, or negatively at worst. These are challenges the whole industry can – and must – address.”
She also said the BBC remained much loved and trusted but was in danger of resting on “nostalgia” rather than its current output and needed to do more to attract younger audiences. She said Ofcom’s audience research had found that “younger groups often saw a lack of risk-taking. The BBC was not offering enough edgy content, or services relevant to them.
“Many people we spoke to felt the BBC was overly focused on middle-aged, middle-class audiences. They said it could do more for the wider public, ethnic minorities and younger groups.”
The BBC has set ambitious diversity targets for on- and off-screen staff, which it says it is on track to meet. However, the corporation and other broadcasters have repeatedly been criticised for slow progress, and in particular a failure to tell a diverse range of stories about minorities. On Tuesday, actor and writer Meera Syal echoed the sentiments of Dewsbury’s residents as she described BBC drama Three Girls, about the Rochdale abuse scandal, as an example of the failure to treat Asians as “people, not issues”.