London mayor backs efforts to boost diversity in broadcasting industry

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Broadcasters in the UK need to "redouble their efforts" to address a lack of diversity, the Mayor of London has said.

Sadiq Khan has called on broadcasting regulator Ofcom to adopt new measures to improve black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) diversity in the industry.

In a letter to Ofcom chief executive Sharon White, the mayor has set out proposals to ensure better BAME diversity both on and off-screen.

Sadiq Khan (Yui Mok/PA)
Sadiq Khan has written a letter to the Ofcom boss (Yui Mok/PA)

Ms White is said to have criticised broadcasters in the UK last month for a "woeful" lack of diversity among their staff, adding that it was "disappointing" that the BBC was not "leading the way", the Guardian said.

The mayor's office said Mr Khan agreed with Ofcom's assessment that a lack of diversity in broadcasting was creating a "cultural disconnect" between programme-makers and viewers.

He has joined forces with Sir Lenny Henry to call on the regulator to provide more robust scrutiny of BAME diversity in the sector.

Mr Khan's proposals are creating an industry-wide definition of a diverse "BAME production", ring-fencing funds for diversity programmes and setting clear job targets for broadcasters both on and off-screen.

BBC (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Ofcom chief executive Sharon White reportedly said it was "disappointing" that the BBC was not "leading the way" (Anthony Devlin/PA)

The mayor said the creative industries were "at the heart of London's culture and economy" and put the UK in "a leading position on the global stage".

He added: "The world looks to the UK as a beacon of diversity and so it's vitally important that the work of our broadcasting industry truly reflects the lives and realities of our entire population.

"More importantly, Ofcom should hold broadcasters to account and ensure that BAME people are properly reflected both on and off-screen through jobs in production and by taking up senior editorial and commissioning positions within the industry.

"This year marks the 30th anniversary of Black History Month in the UK. BAME communities contribute so much to the life and soul of London and the whole of the UK.

"It's time our broadcasters step up to the plate and redouble their efforts to be properly representative of the UK population as a whole."

Lenny Henry (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Sir Lenny Henry also urged Ofcom to provide more robust scrutiny of BAME diversity in the industry (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Sir Lenny said: "The Mayor of London's words are timely; we live in a world where matters of race and ethnicity are down played in order to fulfil the more abstract 'creative diversity'.

"We all know that 'if you can't see, you can't be' - Mr Khan's words are a direct plea to Ofcom to put pressure on broadcasters to represent minorities both on screen and behind the camera.

"Only then will our UK TV and Film industries be truly representational."

An Ofcom spokesman said: "We share the mayor's concern that broadcasters must do more to improve diversity on and off screen.

"We hope to meet the mayor soon to discuss our current work on this issue."