We are holding our first academic conference, Representology Live!, on 27th June 2024 at Cardiff University. See details and the Call for Papers.

Disrupt the Narrative

Authors: Josh Cockcroft, Delphine Lievens, Chi Thai

The British Film Institute (BFI) is the cornerstone public funder within the UK film industry. They have publicly acknowledged the need to improve their efforts towards diversity & inclusion (Kanter, 2023) and are considered a leader in shaping inclusion with their protocols that are typically adopted by the wider industry. The role the BFI plays in equality, diversity and inclusion can not be overstated as they build and shape the talent pipeline that flows out towards the wider industry - the failure to be inclusive at this level is only amplified later.

This Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity study examines BFI data, taken from 2019-2020 specifically, as a recent and typical year pre-pandemic, observing across the characteristics of gender, race, disability and class. It is well documented that most research focuses on funding awards and this study aims to address the deficit of research in understanding the make-up of applicants who submit to the film fund as well as the make-up of applicants who are awarded. Subsequently this study is able to make an assessment on the success rates of different diversity characteristics.

The concept of intersectionality is a framework for understanding how individuals’ multiple social and political identities result in a unique combination of discrimination and privilege. The existing research highlighted the need to address inequality in the film industry from an intersectional perspective. While an intersectional analysis did not end up being possible, our research was able to perform a granular analysis of the results, and our findings highlight the issues of the continued use of ‘catch all’ terms such as B.A.M.E which homogenise the experience of diverse communities.

The study's key recommendations include:

1. The publishing of annual intersectional analysis, including applications, awards by count, and value of awards. This aligns with best practices of grant-giving foundations for transparency and accountability.

2. Urgent large-scale intervention to create transformative inclusion in the industry for people with disability.

3. Abolition of homogenisation of ethnicity using catch-all terms and vocabulary; levelling up the BFI executives to fully understand racial diversity and the complexity of diaspora and setting targets for different ethnicity groups.

Download the report:

Disrupt the Narrative

How Mainstream Media Organisations Can Advertise for, and Attract, Black, Asian and Global Majority Journalists

Authors: Marcus Ryder, Aurora Herrera

Job advertisements are an important step in building a more racially diverse workforce at every level of an organisation, and play a critical role in any diversity, inclusion and equity policies. They are especially important in mainstream UK journalism organisations which historically have excluded Black, Asian and Global Majority people, still suffer from disproportionately low levels of racial diversity, and often rely on personal and social networks both for entry level positions and career progression to senior positions.

The report advises on:

  1. Different effective methods to attract journalistic talent at different career levels including entry level, mid-career and senior roles
  2. Investigating obstacles to reaching and appealing to Black Asian and Global Majority journalists
  3. How to overcome these obstacles.
Download the report:

Journalists - Mainstream Media Organisations

Are media organisations adequately protecting LGBTQ journalists from harassment and abuse?

Author: Finbarr Toesland

Through a survey of 40 LGBTQ journalists working in the United Kingdom and one-to-one interviews with six media workers, this report explores the abuse and harassment faced by LGBTQ journalists and if the level of support offered by media organisations is sufficient to protect LGBTQ staff from abuse. The report finds high levels of abuse facing LGBTQ journalists, a lack of support for victims of harassment, specific abuse targeting sexual orientation and gender identity being commonplace and social media being the prime vector for abusive messaging.

Download the report:

Media organisations

Beyond Black to Front

Accessing Channel 4's Black to Front Project and New Diversity and Inclusion Challenges 
Authors: Dr Stevie Marsden, Dr Jami Rogers, Prof Marcus Ryder, Vincent Obia

Channel 4’s Black To Front Project was a day of programming broadcast on Friday 10th September 2021 with 100% on-screen Black representation and attempting to maximize Black representation behind the camera (aiming at 100%). The network’s schedule started with The Big Breakfast hosted by Mo Gilligan at 8.00am, and finished with Unapologetic, hosted by Yinka Bokinni and Zeze Millz, at 23.35pm. It included a mixture of new commissions (Unapologetic), relaunches/ reimaginings of old formats (Celebrity Gogglebox) and recasting of existing returning series (Countdown).

Download the report:

Beyond Black to Front

Black in Fact - Beyond the White Gaze

The examination of black representation in documentaries for UK audiences
Author: Cherish Oteka

This study explores the types of documentaries that are made and platformed by the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) English-speaking Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs). Data was collected between April and May 2021 using the on-demand services of PSBs ranging from BBC iPlayer to ITV hub, 4oD and My5. Interviews were also conducted with Black factual programme makers to further explore representation in documentaries and the journey towards getting programmes that centre Black people produced.

Download the report:

Black in Fact - Beyond the White Gaze

Diversity of Senior Leaders in BBC Radio News

Author: Nina Robinson
Academic supervisor: Dr Siobhan Stevenson

This research, funded by the Practitioner Investigating Media Industry Diversity (PIMID) Grant from the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity at Birmingham City University, was conducted in May 2021 and examines the diversity of senior leaders in BBC Radio News. It is led by a Senior Radio News and Current Affairs professional of 17 years who has worked in BBC local, national and international radio and who now runs her own audio production company. This extensive experience across multiple BBC Radio divisions (as well in BBC TV and digital) has provided valuable insights which aid the accuracy and authenticity of accounts provided and sample data collected.

Findings show under representation of BAME professionals, in senior leader roles in Radio News which does not reflect the regional and national population data for the geographical areas they cover. Systemic and cultural barriers to career progression for BAME staff were identified as continuing to restrict the progression of diverse candidates into senior roles in Radio News. These include the existence of a ‘BBC type’ groomed for management, un-conscious bias in the selection of candidates and other recruitment practices causing structural issues with recruitment and career progression process’.

Download the report:

Diversity of Senior Leaders in BBC Radio News

BAME: A report on the use of the term and responses to it

Terminology Review for the BBC and Creative Industries

Sarita Malik, Marcus Ryder, Stevie Marsden, Robert Lawson and Matt Gee

The use of the term BAME, an acronym used to refer to people from ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic’ backgrounds, has become widespread in the UK in recent years. From government reports, advocacy groups and journalistic reportage, BAME has become a catch-all moniker, interchangeably used as both a noun and adjective to signify, or “represent”, a heterogeneous band of people who do not identify as White when describing their identities, cultures, and experiences. 

Despite this wide spread usage,the term has garnered significant criticism from the very people it seeks to describe. With some people viewing it as an annoying “necessary evil”, to others seeing it as an insult that should never be used. A major concern, apparent in recent public responses to BAME, is that it homogenises culturally distinct social groups.

Our aim in this report is to address the current, existing tensions around the use of BAME and ethnicity-related terminology in the creative industries as part of our broader work, research-based and vocational, to action change in the sector. The report makes a critical intervention in current debates, and hopes to drive forward a more thoughtful approach to how language about, and for, diverse communities is used in the future.

Download the report:

BAME: A report on the use of the term and responses to it

BAME: A report on the use of the term and responses to it - accessible version

Representation and Conflict: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Workers in the Entertainment Trade Unions

Riaz Meer and Jack Newsinger

This research, conducted between April and June 2021, examined the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic members of the five entertainment sector trade unions: BECTU Sector of Prospect, Equity, the Musicians’ Union, the National Union of Journalists and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

It sought to explore the role that the five unions play in anti-racism activity within the sector; to identify barriers; and make recommendations to improve the capacity of the unions to contribute to greater equality for Black, Asian and minority ethnic workers.

Read more

Race Between the Lines: Actors’ Experience of Race and Racism in Britain’s Audition and Casting Process and On Set

Dr Jami Rogers

Casting is one of the most important aspects of achieving true and accurate diversity, inclusion and equity in the acting profession. It is literally the foundation that everything else is built upon, and yet too often it is overlooked in discussions around race, gender and under representation.

After more than forty years in the industry there is no doubt in my mind that it is one of the greatest challenges facing the industry. Every time we see a great actor like Thandiwe Newton, Idris Elba or David Harewood leave these shores to find opportunities denied to them in the UK, it is a painful reminder of why casting is so important.

This report finally brings into the open what many of us talk about, and suffer, in private.

Read more

Career Routes and Barriers for Disabled People Working in the UK TV Industry

Kate Ansell

This paper examines the experiences of disabled people working in the UK television industry, with an emphasis on those who have worked in the industry for a significant period of time, career progression, retention and “glass ceilings”.

Read more

Sir Lenny Henry Centre panel discussion and Q &A session 

Professor Diane Kemp, Emma Butt, Marcus Ryder 

As part of the launch of the Centre for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts, academics discussed the research currently going on in the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity. The 90 minute discussion also included a question and answer session with the audience. You can view the video here

Setting the standards for success: interrogating the evidence to ensure lasting change through ‘Channel 4 represents Black to Front’

Professor Marcus Ryder, Dr Stevie Marsden, Carlene Marshall-King 

Channel 4’s ‘Black to Front’ initiative, a day of programming with 100% on-screen Black representation, and attempting to maximise Black representation behind the camera, provides a valuable opportunity for the broadcaster to identify and trial business practices that could significantly increase Black and people of colour (shortened to PoC henceforth) representation behind the camera in general and in key positions for years to come.

The broadcaster has announced that it sees this as “part of its ongoing commitment as an anti-racist organisation to improve Black representation on and off screen and drive long-term change”, as well as a way to “amplify Black talent, stories, and voices by bringing them to the forefront on screen and off screen.” Yet, if the initiative is not implemented correctly it risks Channel 4 being seen by the general public as trying to capitalise on Black Lives Matter and the serious political movement of combating anti-Black racism for its own benefit, and with little or no lasting benefit to broader attempts to increase Black representation in UK broadcasting.

This report is organised in two key parts – examining existing data including a review of the literature, and utilising previous experience in terms of examples and interviews. It ends with recommendations for Channel 4 to maximise the potential for the ‘Black to Front’ day to make long-lasting change and minimise the risk of it being seen as tokenism.

Read more

The Future of Diversity Regulation in the UK Broadcast Industry

Dr Peter L. Block

This research, sponsored by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, has examined the matter of diversity regulation in the UK broadcast industry. The findings are captured in six models of diversity clustered under three themes; (A) Ofcom relinquishes the obligation, (B) Ofcom continues to manage the process or (C) Ofcom devolves the matter to an independent agency. This report explains the rationale for arriving at these models.   

Read more

Diversity in Post-Production Sound Roles in UK Television Production

Emma Butt

This research, conducted throughout August and September 2020, examined the highest rated TV shows across the Autumn period of 2019 on BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky One and the breakdown of diversity across the key post-production sound team roles. The data is drawn from Broadcast magazine’s quarterly reports on highest rated shows (published online 15/9/2019), on screen credits and IMDB. This research also involved interviews with a diverse range of professionals working in post-production sound to identify barriers to career progression in this area. This research evidences a worrying absence of diversity in post-production sound teams specifically in drama, entertainment and factual.

Read more

Study reveals how BAME-led TV organisations have been hit by COVID crisis

A study carried out at the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, assessed the impact of coronavirus on independent companies led by Black, Asian and minority ethnic professionals. The research revealed a third of BAME-led TV production companies are facing serious financial hardship as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Read more

Media Diversity Timeline