Mayor of London Wants Ofcom to Regulate More Diversity in Broadcasting

London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, doesn’t think British broadcasters show enough “diversity” on television. To change this, he sent a letter to Sharon White, chief executive of Ofcom, to express “concerns over BAME diversity in the broadcasting industry.”

BAME is an acronym. It stands for “Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic,” a term used to refer to members of non-white communities in the UK. To clarify for American readers: In British English, when someone says “Asian” they usually mean from South Asia, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, etc.

“British broadcasters must step up to the plate and redouble their efforts to be representative of our communities,” Mayor Khan tweeted on Friday, sharing an article from The Guardian.

This is the letter Mayor Khan wrote to Ofcom’s Chief Executive Sharon White, as published in The Guardian.

Dear Sharon,

As mayor of London, I am writing to express my particular concerns over BAME diversity in the broadcasting industry and its impact on London’s economy and culture.

I fully agree with your recent comments that broadcasters are making “woeful progress” in representing the diversity of our society, including the representation of people from BAME backgrounds. As you made clear, this “shocking” failure creates a “cultural disconnect” between programme makers and viewers. This will only change if Ofcom put in place clear requirements that broadcasters must meet.

In order to regulate diversity of the broadcasting industry successfully, Ofcom must have a clear definition of what constitutes a “diverse BAME production”. Sir Lenny Henry has sought to solve this issue by proposing a definition that involves a production, meeting two of three criteria. In summary:

(1) at least 50% of the production staff measured against cost must be BAME;

(2) at least 50% of on-screen talent measured against cost must be BAME;

(3) at least 30% of senior personnel must be BAME.

Ringfencing funds for production and programming has proven a successful method of widening access to the broadcasting industry across the regions and nations. Building on this success, I am writing to ask that Ofcom consider expanding this approach with the aim of improving BAME diversity.

Measuring progress is essential for improving BAME diversity across the broadcast industry, but without clear targets, progress cannot be properly assessed and tracked. Ofcom is in a position to significantly improve this process by requiring broadcasters to provide more consistent and accurate statistics.

The three proposals I have highlighted above are straightforward steps Ofcom can take to improve the lack of progress on BAME diversity in the broadcasting industry.

I believe the promotion of diversity in broadcasting is not only vital for the culture and profile of the UK but is critical for ensuring the commercial success and sustainability of one of the most important drivers of the London economy. London is proudly one of the most diverse cities in the world, and we should be aiming for nothing less than for that to be reflected in an equally diverse broadcasting industry.

Yours sincerely,

Sadiq Khan

Mayor of London

Not everyone agrees with Mayor Khan. Many people believe there is actually too much diversity in broadcasting rather than too little.

“Practically every advert has an interracial couple for families,” one Twitter user posted, while another said he believed ethnic minorities were over represented in almost every British TV show, especially period dramas.

One man, in response to the mayor insisting that broadcasters redouble their efforts to include more diversity, sarcastically replied, “Also, coincidentally, we must redouble our efforts to transform British society through enforced mass immigration that nobody asked for.”