‘Posh’ BBC cuts details from CVs to help diversity
Internal survey suggests broadcaster is too posh Targets for socioeconomic class could be introduced
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.