Ethnic and Sexual Minorities Over-Represented at BBC, Despite Claims of Discrimination

People leave the BBC building, in the corporation's West London headquarters, 21 Marc

The BBC is on course to meet or exceed all of its “diversity quotas” for ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, but remains a stronghold of middle class and privately-educated privilege, with working class people severely under-represented.

The revelation, from the first socioeconomic census of the broadcaster’s staff, reported by The Times, comes as the media rallies to denounce the corporation and “sexist” and discriminatory against minorities based on the salaries of a small number of top employees.

Covering the license fee-funded broadcaster’s disclosure of how much it gives its highest-paid employees, the Huffington Post ran with the headline: “Lack Of Diversity Laid Bare By Top Earners’ List”.

The Guardian newspaper struck a similar tone with: “BBC Facing Backlash from Female Stars after Gender Pay Gap Revealed”.

BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey said she was “incandescent with rage” about the supposed “gender pay gap” between male and female presenters.

Overall, however, the proportion of white men at the corporation is rapidly declining.

The BBC said yesterday that 48.2 per cent of employees are women, including 42.1 per cent in “leadership roles”. Around 52 per cent of the general population are women, and the BBC aims to have 50 per cent in both categories in just three years.

Furthermore, a staff census at the end of last year showed that 14.5 per cent of staff were from ethnic minorities, ahead of this year’s target, with the aim of hitting 15 per cent by 2020.

This means ethnic minorities are already over-represented, as the 2011 national census found that 87 per cent of the population classed themselves as “white”.

Sexual minorities are also excelling. More than a tenth of the BBC’s staff are currently lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, rising to 11.5 per cent in leadership jobs.

The target is 8 per cent by 2020, although just 1.7 per cent of the population identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to a 2015 report by the Office for National Statistics.

Despite these rapid, ongoing changes, one major demographic – the working class – remains under represented.

The socioeconomic census of the BBC’s staff found 17 per cent attended fee-paying schools, compared with 7 per cent of the general population.

Fully 61 per cent of BBC employees are drawn from families where parents have “higher managerial and professional occupations” – just 20 per cent of the general population.

The BBC has made well-paid, prestigious internships exclusively available to non-whites – regardless of economic background – and made organised so-called “diversity drives“.

Research by the NUJ in 2011 found that across journalism as a whole, fewer than ten per cent of those entering the profession come from a working-class background, and just three per cent from homes headed by semi-skilled or unskilled workers.


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