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Monitoring demystified (story updated 30th September)

It has been widely recognised by the industry that a lack of industry-standard, when it comes to monitoring workforce and on-screen diversity, limits effectiveness for change. Our industry urgently needs regular, cross-industry diversity reports that enable broadcasters to monitor their own progress, and to benchmark their performance against others. These figures would provide a baseline to measure progress around diversity, both on- and off-screen.

One of the CDN members’ joint priorities is to establish a standard way of asking for and publishing data around diversity. This project is underway and has received both financial and resource commitment from senior sponsors across the industry.

As interest in this area grows, the CDN is being asked for more information on the project – how it will work, timeframes and why the issue seems to be so complex. We’ve therefore produced a Q&A that we hope will help demystify the project more.

Given the timescales that it will take to embed a monitoring tool of this scale, we understand the need to share information as the project progresses. Over the summer, the first piece of tangible data has being produced in order to test the methodology we plan to implement. This report will be reviewed by our monitoring working group to take the wider project into the next phase, and the report in its entirety will be published in September. However, at a time when there is great interest in onscreen diversity portrayal, we thought it useful to share the Executive Summary of Dr. Guy Cumberbatch’s report.


The CDN commissioned an independent diversity portrayal research report from Dr. Guy Cumberbatch (Communications Research Group), a respected expert in this field who has undertaken many such diversity monitoring projects for the CDN, its members BBC and Channel 4, and Ofcom and others. The purpose of this project was to produce quantitative results on diversity portrayal for the main broadcasters (the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky) that would be available this summer, and which would provide a baseline for the kinds of outputs that will be produced via a report from next year by the diversity monitoring tool that the CDN is currently developing. The report would form a tangible basis for discussion with commissioners and programme makers to ensure the data we produce from the longer term CDN project will be relevant for future business decisions.

As a pilot study, we focused on a small set of the most popular shows recently broadcast by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky. To ensure we looked at a range of genres under a consistent approach across the broadcasters, we selected the Top 5 most-viewed UK originated shows by each broadcaster in the six-month period from October 2013 to March 2014 (i.e. the half-year immediately prior to when the project began) in each of the three broad genres of Factual, Entertainment and Drama. Across these programmes – looking at up to six episodes of each series, resulting in over 200 hours of programming in total – the researchers analysed diversity portrayal in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, and disability. The over-arching objective was to measure the reach of diversity within the highest rating shows.

Clearly such a small sample is not representative but the results provide some useful pointers for all broadcasters, as part of a much wider process to establish more rigorous, consistent and systematic diversity monitoring across the industry.

The ultimate aim, once the CDN project is fully implemented, is for portrayal data of this nature to be available for all programmes commissioned by these broadcasters, alongside corresponding “actual“ diversity data for on- and off-screen talent working on these programmes. This will allow us to assess the diversity of the workforce involved in production across all role types, while the portrayal data will show the extent to which scripted programmes (in which actors’ own diversity characteristics will not always be the same as those of the characters which they are portraying) reflect and portray the full diversity of the UK.

Read the full report here

Read a Q&A on our Monitoring project here

LGBT workforce and portrayal

Following publication of the diversity portrayal research report, InterMedia (an LGBT network for people working in the media) contacted the CDN to express concern about the LGBT population figures quoted in the report. The report cites a figure of 1.5% for the UK LGB population, which came from the ONS Integrated Household Survey. InterMedia’s Fair Representation Group noted that the most commonly used figure is around 6%: this is the figure that Stonewall cites, and was also used by government actuaries when calculating the costs of implementing the Civil Partnership Act. The CDN would like to emphasise that it was never the intention to base any future industry targets for LGBT portrayal or the LGBT workforce on the ONS data. Following our dialogue with InterMedia, the CDN can confirm that it supports the 6% figure as the most relevant estimate of the UK LGB population, and that this figure will be used to inform any future targets for the workforce or for portrayal. A note from InterMedia on the issues around measuring the LGBT population can be found here.