Diamond data reveals dire diversity for writers

New report shows that just 9.1% of UK television writers are from BAME backgrounds, while figures drop to 1.6% for black writers and even lower for South and East Asian writers and other minority ethnic groups
Race and Ethnic Diversity report

A new report from broadcast industry-monitoring initiative Project Diamond released today (13 October 2020) paints a bleak picture for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) writers working in UK television.

Race & Ethnic Diversity: A deep dive into Diamond data, published by the Creative Diversity Network (CDN), is based on over 600,000 contributions from over 30,000 creatives making UK-originated content across 30 channels and for the five main broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and C5ViacomCBS.

The data, which relates to TV programmes broadcast between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019, reveals that only 9.1% of writers are from BAME backgrounds, below both the UK BAME population (12.8%) and markedly below the BAME population of London (40.2%) where a high proportion of TV programmes are made.

Within that 9.1%, writers from Mixed ethnic backgrounds achieved the highest level of representation, making up over half the total at 5.6%. Representation dropped to a shocking 1.6 for Black writers, while South Asian, East Asian writers and other groups made up such a low sample size that the data was retracted.

Across most genres, people from BAME groups are making proportionally fewer contributions in senior roles (including writers) than in other roles, a disparity which is particularly marked in drama. Comedy is another area of low representation off-screen.

Both these genres were revealed to have low areas of representation for women writers in WGGB-commissioned research published in 2018. Since then, the union’s Equality Writes campaign has been calling on broadcasters and industry bodies, including the Creative Diversity Network, to release programme-level diversity monitoring data so that WGGB and sister unions in the entertainment sector can work with industry to effect meaningful change.

Race & Ethnic Diversity: A deep dive into Diamond also found that:

  • Representation in all areas of off-screen roles remains a serious concern, particularly at senior level where it falls below 10%.
  • Asian people are under-represented both on and off screen in almost every genre.
  • Black Asian and Minority Ethnic people are far less likely to be working off-screen than on-screen in key genres such drama and factual.
  • Representation in many craft jobs is well below 5%, at points so low CDN was unable to report the statistics.

It proposes a series of next steps, including continued monitoring and reporting, and measures to embed inclusion in the industry, including diversifying heads of department and senior roles, including writers (read the full report).

WGGB General Secretary Ellie Peers said:

“The report reinforces what we suspected, but had no data on, that the television industry is not diverse off screen. Given the data sets available to the Project Diamond team, I’m disappointed that the report falls short by not identifying those broadcasters who are making positive steps forward as well as those who need to do much more.

“Trade unions have repeatedly called on CDN and the broadcasters to share programme-level data as without transparency there can be no systemic change in our industry.”

WGGB Chair Lisa Holdsworth said:

“I am both saddened and angry to see such a woeful lack of Black and Asian writers getting their work on screen in the UK. However, I am neither shocked nor surprised. Having spoken to our Black and Asian members it seems their work is still routinely pigeon-holed and marginalised, despite being reflective of the lived experiences of many British people. UK drama and comedy must welcome a plurality of voices if it is not to lose its richness, innovation and, ultimately, its viewers.”

WGGB’s Equality and Diversity Committee is currently in the process of assessing how the union can expand its Equality Writes campaign to tackle inequality amongst BAME writers in the screen industries. Members who would like to contribute to the union’s work in this area should contact the Equality & Diversity Committee by email: ED@writersguild.org.uk