Unions boycott broadcasters’ diversity plan

BECTU and Writers Guild are urging broadcasters to reconsider their refusal to publish specific equality monitoring data.

14 March 2017

BECTU and the Writers Guild have resolved to boycott the broadcasters’ Project Diamond diversity initiative. Their press release is set out below.

Press release for immediate use:

Unions boycott broadcasters’ diversity plan after broadcasters reject black workers’ demands 

BECTU and the Writers Guild have resolved to boycott the broadcasters’ Project Diamond diversity initiative after the broadcasters refused to publish equality monitoring data for individual programmes or series.

BECTU has been discussing this for nearly a year with the Creative Diversity Network (CDN), which is managing the project on behalf of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. The initiative aims to capture the equality monitoring data of all those working on programmes they commission and they have stated that they will publish it for genres and job grades.

However, BECTU black members’ committee is adamant that this will fail to bring about any significant improvement in the under-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers in television.

The broadcasters have tended in effect to blame the problem on ethnic minority professionals – there aren’t enough, or they are not experienced enough – so their action has been generally focussed on mentoring, placements and bringing in more new entrants. But Gerry Morrissey, head of BECTU, states: “By far the biggest problem is the attitudes and hiring practices of the gatekeepers. Too many hirers are unable to believe that minority ethnic professionals are capable of doing the job, no matter how much experience or how successful. To address this Project Diamond must publish the equality monitoring data by production so that we can identify who has a diverse crew, and can learn from their example, and who does not, so we can work with them to improve. Without this any BAME new entrants will find that their entrance is via a revolving door.”

At a meeting in February BECTU offered a compromise in which the broadcasters shared programme-level data with the unions on a confidential basis, a practice which has precedent. The broadcasters rejected even that.

The Writers Guild of Great Britain has joined BECTU in boycotting Project Diamond. Ellie Peers, WGGB Acting General Secretary, commented: "WGGB supports equality monitoring of freelance writers, it enables both employers and unions to identify the good, the bad and the ugly and to work collectively to stamp out discriminatory practices. Broadcasters and television producers are now undertaking monitoring as part of Project Diamond. WGGB actively supported the project but now withdraws this support because programme-level data collected by Project Diamond will not be shared, even in confidence, with recognised trade unions. So if our negotiators asked the same question that we asked broadcasters prior to Project Diamond – how many women or BAME writers have been commissioned on X programme over the past series – we still wouldn't get an answer. The only difference between then and now is that previously the broadcasters couldn't answer, now they won't answer. Project Diamond is a golden opportunity for positive change within our industry but only if there is transparency."

The unions will not be suggesting that the equality monitoring forms should not be completed. But Gerry Morrissey added: “We cannot support a diversity initiative that has deliberately rejected the demands of minority ethnic union representatives. Our members have the most to lose from the broadcasters’ failure to address race equality in the broadcasting industry and as long as the broadcasters refuse to listen to them they will fail to address the most pressing issue – the attitudes and hiring practices of the gatekeepers – and therefore will fail to bring about any significant change for BAME professionals.”

The unions are urging the broadcasters to reconsider and if they do agree to publish the data as demanded by the unions, BECTU and the Writers Guild will immediately begin working closely with them to maximise participation in the equality monitoring and to work with productions that are in most need of assistance.


For more information contact Janice Turner, diversity officer, or the BECTU press office on 020 7346 0900.

Note for editors:

On 1 January 2017, BECTU merged with Prospect. BECTU is now officially the BECTU Sector of Prospect.

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