Broadcasting Minister Margot James has told Project Diamond, the broadcasters initiative to collect diversity data, that it is in danger of becoming “a missed opportunity” because it is “not granular enough to really be able to inform policy.”

For its refusal to publish programme diversity data, Project Diamond has been boycotted by the Writers Guild, BECTU and the NUJ and has come under fierce attack from diversity activists and DirectorsUK. Diamond claims it cannot publish programme diversity data because it has to protect the anonymity of participants.

Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, the Minister urged all those with an interest in the issue to come together and told delegates that she had been in touch with the Information Commissioner’s Office “to try to overcome the issues of data protection that lie at the heart of the problem.”

BAME people in television production say the off-screen results Diamond publishes don’t match their lived reality and that BAME employment on programmes is greatly overstated. Diamond admits that as “a consequence of the low response rate,” only 25.2% in Year 2, there is “the inevitable possibility of reporting bias” and the results must be “interpreted with a degree of caution.”

The Minister also told the conference that more needed to be done on social mobility and praised “the ground breaking work” from Channel 4 and the LSE academic, Sam Friedman, which found only 9% of staff in channel four identify as being from a working class background. She said “there is a lot of evidence to point to the fact that this is getting worse, not better” and that this was also true of race and ethnic background.

Margot James pointed to Ofcom research which found that more than half of black viewers felt that there are not enough black people on television and when they are represented, 51% felt that they are portrayed negatively. She urged the broacasters to do better and told delegates:

“When I listened to my colleague David Lammy in parliament speak about his constituency and the huge challenges, young black people who want to stay on the right side of the law and make something of their lives in places like that, which he represents – the huge challenges that they face compared to the average young person. It is very salutory and a great deal of positive action needs to take place to tackle that very real problem.”

The Oxford Media Convention took place on Monday 18th March at the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre in Worcester College and was produced by IPPR, the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Photo: BBC The Greatest Dancer