Equity publishes study on poor racial diversity in UK television

Equity has published a research report on diversity in broadcast peak scripted television. Commissioned by the union’s Race Equality Committee, the work monitored ethnic diversity in mainstream media in 2018.

The study analysed 53 weeks of primetime scripted drama and comedy shows broadcast on UK terrestrial television in 2018. It found that ethnic minorities are under-represented in peak scripted programming, with east Asian and Middle Eastern actors most affected, and that depictions of African-Caribbean and south Asian characters continue to reinforce stereotypes.

The report has been released as part of last month’s launch of the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity. The new research centre is dedicated to diversity in the media, and will work to improve minority ethnic representation in the stage and screen industries.

Ian Manborde, Equity’s Equalities and Diversities Officer, said: “Equity's research shines a clear light upon the profound problem of poor ethnic representation and portrayal across mainstream broadcast media. As broadcast regulator OFCOM has repeatedly stated in their own research, broadcasters must improve their strategies to achieve diverse portrayal, as well as mechanisms to monitor their on-screen and off-screen workforce. It was this deep frustration with the slow pace of change that led Equity's Race Equality Committee (REC) to commission this research. This research will support continuing negotiations with broadcasters to adopt a rigorous review of their commissioning strategies and to work closely with Equity to significantly improve the way in which modern, diverse life is portrayed to the UK public."

The author of the report, Dr Jami Rogers, said “When Idris Elba made his case to Parliament in 2016 that British television continued to be unrepresentative of the country as a whole, he did so anecdotally. By monitoring a year’s worth of programme level data and analysing it by genre, this research shows that anecdote is also fact. Thinking about diversity and inclusion as a numbers game or a tick-box exercise is obsolete. True inclusion will come when programme level data like this shows equality across all genres in the depiction of the vast array of human experiences that comprise modern Britain.”

Access the full report.