0030SA_edited-2CU  “Diversity: Where are we now?” Speech by Simon Albury, Chair of the Campaign for             Broadcasting Equality at the Televisual Factual Festival, BAFTA, 13 November 2013.

I’m delighted that Televisual have planned this session for today, the exact anniversary of the                 landmark Broadcast Diversify Conference on 13th November last year.

At the start of that Conference, Skillset’s Kate O’Connor told us that Black and Minority Ethnic               Employment in the Creative Industries was at its lowest point since statistics had been recorded and     at the end of the Conference we heard calls to arms from Lenny Henry and Kwame Kwei-Armah and     others.

It was the next day that I decided to form the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality with the goal that     business units and institutions should seek to match the ethnic demographic of the locations where     they are based. This Campaign is evidence based and doesn’t seek to duplicate the superb work             done by Simone and the TV Collective.

 

 

Lenny Henry and Ed Vaizey

lenny henry

In the year since the Diversify Conference we have seen more new initiatives than anyone could have expected. This is thanks to the energy and commitment of two men Lenny Henry and the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey.

Lenny Henry has developed imaginative solutions and given a strong clear voice to our concerns. Ed Vaizey has done much more than any other Minister before him.

The new initiatives have been overspun and are far from adequate – there is much more that needs to be done  – but a start has been made – the glass may be ¾ empty but at least the glass is now ¼ full.

Fifteen years ago the Secretary of State, Chris Smith sought to initiate change in Film and Broadcasting – but he – like the rest of us – overestimated these industries’ appetite for change and underestimated their ability to spin and procrastinate. Over the past fifteen years there is one thing we have learned  – without sustained external political pressure – the broadcasting, film and creative industries cannot be trusted to advance diversity.

Ed Vaizey has provided that political pressure – and through his constant and persistent engagement – Ed Vaizey has set a benchmark against which the performance of future ministers should be measured.

Let me run through some of the initiatives for which Ed Vaizey can take some credit.

BFI

The BFI came up with a complex three ticks plan for film. The good news is that they came up with a plan – the bad news is that it was utterly flawed. Despite some revision – it is still the case that the entire film industry could employ no ethnic minorities at all and still qualify under the BFI Three Ticks guidelines. What is needed are clear targets and clear measurement of BAME employment in Film. BECTU’s Janice Turner and the Entertainment Unions are on the case and perhaps we will see progress next year.

CDN

For most of its 15 year life CDN has been a diversity distraction. CDN’s existence reassured broadcasters that they could appear to appear to take diversity seriously without actually having to change anything at all.

Now, at last, with Ed Vaizey’s encouragement, CDN has become a self-standing organisation with permanent staff and it has established a uniform measurement system across broadcasters and started a number of potentially useful initiatives. It is too soon to know if we should be optimistic about CDN’s effectiveness but for the time being let’s give CDN the benefit of the doubt.

SKY

As Stuart Murphy is here, he can explain how and why Sky was able set challenging BAME employment targets for 2015 – which is something the BBC has failed to do.


BBC

bbc logo  The BBC has conveniently placed its own BAME targets in the long grass beyond licence renewal in       2017.  The BBC has provided us with a torrent of warm words and some interesting initiatives but the   truth is that the BBC has failed to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to BAME                     employment. Instead the BBC has chosen to focus on on-screen portrayal.

  Diversity Creative Talent Fund

The BBC’s much touted Diversity Creative Talent Fund – Danny Cohen was banging on about it             again last week – this fund has a budget of just £2.1m which amounts to no more than 0.12% of last     year’s BBC content budget (of £1,789.1m) and matches the cost of just two episodes of Downton Abbey. This small fund is exclusively dedicated for projects which can demonstrate improved on-air representation. And the decisions on how to spend it will be made by the exactly the same culturally blinkered commissioners who have performed so poorly in the past.

Let me be very clear  – improvement in on screen BAME portrayal is important – but on screen representation which is not matched by off-screen employment is a hollow, deceptive and superficial gesture. Editorial power and influence lie behind the screen not on it.

The Henry Plan

The BBC is doing nothing significant to drive BAME employment off-screen where it matters. When the BBC wanted to drive regional production it ring fenced money.  The result was an increase in regional production by over 400%. Lenny Henry and others have proposed that the BBC should take a similar approach to BAME employment. This has become known as The Henry Plan.With the Henry Plan criteria – a 10% ring fenced fund would drive a maximum of 5% of BAME employment.

In 2015, at the very least, I hope to see the BBC pilot the Henry Plan with a ring fenced fund of 3% of its content budget. This could drive 1.5% of BAME employment and would at last give an indication that the BBC is indeed finally prepared to put its money where its mouth is.

Independent Diversity Action Group

Let me also take a brief look at the Independent Diversity Action Group which the BBC Director General Tony Hall announced in July. The title is another of the BBC’s deceptive gestures. The group is made up of eight splendid but busy people all with a strong commitment and track record in diversity. The group may well provide some small occasional positive influence but by no measure has this group been established to match any meaningful criteria for independence. It is chaired by the Director General. It is managed from within the Director General’s office. The group has no budget for independent reports or research. It has no power to initiate action. It has not been provided with the tools and resources to make significant impact. Like so much of what the BBC does in this area – the spin is far greater than the substance.

ITV and Channel 4

This week ITV announced a Social Partnership initiative. From what I’ve seen, ITV again puts more emphasis on on-screen portrayal than on BAME employment but perhaps there are some appropriate targets buried in the fine print.

Today Channel 4 has announced it is going to make an announcement. I do hope Ralph Lee will give us a straight answer on its targets for BAME employment.

Post Election

And now I come to the unhappy ending. Over the past year the creative industries have started to address issues around BAME portrayal and to a lesser extent around BAME employment. Imperfect though they may be – there have been more initiatives than anyone could have expected – and we all know – it’s not how you start – it’s how you finish that counts.

But next year there is going to be an election and whatever the outcome,  Ed Vaizey will move on to a new role either in government or opposition and we may not have a new minister who will continue to push the creative industries hard on these issues.

Without the political imperative, these industries may move backwards. That’s what happened before. When CDN started it created real momentum. Skillset data shows that in the years 2004 to 2006 the reported number of BAME individuals in the UK television industry rose by 80.6%. But after two years of spectacular increase, the next six years between 2006 and 2012 saw the reported BAME numbers working in the UK television industry decline by 30.9%.

This Monday evening at an RTS event Labour and Lib Dem politicians will be joining Ed Vaizey to spell out what each party plans to do for diversity if it gets into power. I hope we will hear a clear commitment from each of them – that the work that Ed Vaizey has started – will continue with the same vigour whatever the outcome of the election.

Amma Asante’s father said “What is right can never be impossible.” We must look to the politicians to make that true.

Simon Albury bio

Simon Albury is Chair of the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality CIO. Simon has been CEO of the Royal Television Society, a founder director of Meridian Broadcasting, director of the Campaign for Quality Television, a producer/director at Granada and the BBC and a failed investigative reporter. He was Chair of the British Screen Advisory Council Committee for Ethnic Minority Employment in Film, Chair of the Centre for Investigative Journalism and was a non-executive director of Nafsiyat-The Intercultural Therapy Centre and the Elisabeth R Fund. For more info – 07932178904