In a report “Diversity and equal opportunities in television 2018. Monitoring report on the UK-based broadcasting industry.” by UK communications regulator Ofcom, religious people are significantly under-represented in the country’s TV industry.
The report, published last September 27, involved the main five broadcasters in the UK – BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky, and Viacom – with over 750 UK-based employees who were asked about three or more protected characteristics such as gender, racial group, and disability. It revealed that 22% of TV staff, excluding on-screen staff, identify themselves as religious. This is lower compared to 67% of the working population in the UK. According to the report, “The work broadcasters have done to promote inclusion in this area is positive… “Broadcasters should ensure these are more consistent and that religion and belief is something all line managers are trained to be mindful of when supporting employees.”
It was also found that older people, as well as the disabled, were under-represented at the biggest broadcasting companies in the UK. In fact, six percent of people working in the TV industry identify themselves as living with a disability. Looking at the UK’s working population, 18% of people are disabled. Also, 15% of workers said they were 50 years old and above, unlike the 31% posted of the wider working population. When it comes to gender preference, 4% of the workers at the five main broadcasters identify themselves as gay, bisexual, or lesbian. The report said for many, religion should be given greater emphasis as it is a defining part of their lives.
While religion and belief are not an area of great focus of these five main broadcasters, they’ve set arrangements to promote equal opportunities in this aspect. For instance, Channel 4 has a policy about religion and belief that line managers are asked to be familiar with. On the other hand, ITV has worked with its Embrace Network to look into new Ramadan guidance for staff. For the Fusion network of Viacom, religious festivals and cultural events are held to celebrate cultural differences and promote inclusivity. At Sky, they raise awareness of the different religious festivals through a series of events. When it comes to BBC, there are multi-faith prayer rooms at its main sites.
One of the recommendations of the report is improved monitoring or to encourage reporting. This ensures that people from varying religions and beliefs are represented in the TV industry. The report also recommends more consideration of different religions and culture to promote inclusion.