‘Posh’ BBC cuts de­tails from CVs to help di­ver­sity

In­ter­nal sur­vey sug­gests broad­caster is too posh Tar­gets for so­cioe­co­nomic class could be in­tro­duced

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Gra­ham Rud­dick

The BBC is re­mov­ing de­tails of univer­sity de­grees and school ed­u­ca­tion from the CVs of po­ten­tial re­cruits and may set tar­gets re­gard­ing the so­cioe­co­nomic class of its work­force, af­ter in­ter­nal find­ings sug­gested the broad­caster is too posh.

A sur­vey by the BBC found that 61% of its em­ploy­ees had par­ents who were in, or had been in, higher man­age­rial po­si­tions and pro­fes­sional oc­cu­pa­tions. This mea­sure is con­sid­ered an ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of whether peo­ple are from a priv­i­leged back­ground. The re­sult is dou­ble the na­tional av­er­age, sug­gest­ing the cor­po­ra­tion is sig­nif­i­cantly out of sync with the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

The sur­vey also found that 17% of BBC staff and 25% of its man­age­ment team went to pri­vate school, sig­nif­i­cantly above the UK av­er­age of 7%. Fur­ther­more, 52% of staff had par­ents with univer­sity de­grees, which is also above the norm.

This is the first time the BBC has col­lected in­for­ma­tion con­nected to class. James Pur­nell, its di­rec­tor of ra­dio and ed­u­ca­tion, re­vealed the find­ings at the Royal Tele­vi­sion So­ci­ety (RTS) con­ven­tion in Cambridge.

Pur­nell said the BBC was con­sid­er­ing tar­gets re­gard­ing the class of its work­force. It al­ready has tar­gets for gen­der, race, sex­u­al­ity and dis­abil­ity, but Pur­nell said it wanted to see more data from across the TV in­dus­try be­fore de­cid­ing on an ap­pro­pri­ate tar­get for class.

In an at­tempt to avoid hir­ing peo­ple only from Oxbridge and pri­vate schools, the BBC has started re­mov­ing names and ed­u­ca­tional back­grounds from CVs dur­ing the re­cruit­ment process.

This mea­sure al­ready cov­ers thou­sands of ap­pli­ca­tions and about 300 jobs a year at the cor­po­ra­tion. It was put in place for en­try-level roles, such as trainees and ap­pren­tice­ships, last year. In April, it was ex­panded to all va­cant po­si­tions at the BBC on an op­tional ba­sis.

The re­moval of de­grees from CVs is likely to be con­tro­ver­sial, as grad­u­ates have paid more than £27,000 in tu­ition fees for a three-year course.

Pur­nell de­fended the move, say­ing: “It’s some­thing lots of or­gan­i­sa­tions are do­ing – across ac­coun­tancy, across law. The the­ory, which I think is right, is that you can get that ev­i­dence [of suit­abil­ity for a role] in other ways, so you can get it through demon­strat­ing com­pe­tency in other ways.”

The BBC has been un­der pres­sure to broaden the so­cioe­co­nomic di­ver­sity of its work­force for some time. Sharon White – chief ex­ec­u­tive of the me­dia reg­u­la­tor, Of­com – said this year that the broad­caster was too fo­cused on “mid­dle-aged and mid­dle-class” peo­ple.

Pur­nell, who ad­mit­ted he was “def­i­nitely priv­i­leged”, said the BBC was keen to have tar­gets. “We don’t have tar­gets for so­cioe­co­nomic [back­grounds], but we are think­ing about it. The hard ques­tion is what is good. We know what our data is, we don’t know how it com­pares to other peo­ple. Un­til we have data across the in­dus­try, I think it’s quite hard to know what good is. We would love to have a tar­get, we would be very happy to do that, it’s just what [the tar­get] would be.”

Di­ver­sity in broad­cast­ing was a ma­jor topic at the RTS con­ven­tion this week af­ter Of­com pub­lished a damn­ing report.

White criticised Bri­tish broad­cast­ers for a woe­ful lack of di­ver­sity among their staff and ac­cused the BBC of fail­ing to lead the way. Women, mi­nor­ity eth­nic groups and dis­abled peo­ple are all un­der-rep­re­sented by broad­cast­ers, Of­com found.

The reg­u­la­tor in­tends to ex­pand the di­ver­sity report next year to include so­cial class. White said the is­sue was “in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant” for di­ver­sity. It will ask broad­cast­ers for in­for­ma­tion on the ge­o­graphic and ed­u­ca­tional back­grounds of staff.

The Of­com chief called for an end to un­paid in­tern­ships be­cause of con­cerns they limit ac­cess to the in­dus­try to those who can af­ford to live in Lon­don.

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