Research

Want to contribute to our influential research?

The Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity Industry Fellowships are now open for applications. The scheme offers 5 grants of up to £3K each to support short turnaround research by industry practitioners. Find out more below.

Industry Fellowships 2022

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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.   

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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.

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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.  

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