In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, all parts of the media have promised to become more representative of the communities they serve. At Women in Journalism we believe that the media becomes a distorting lens rather than a true mirror when the media teams who cover stories do not reflect the diverse make-up of our society.
For twenty five years we have been campaigning for more women’s voices to be heard in the media – but diversity goes wider than that. This summer we set out to discover how diverse our top prime-time news outlets in the UK really are. Over the course of a week in mid-July, our researchers read the front page of every major newspaper, watched daily prime time news shows on popular TV channels (BBC, ITV, Sky) and listened to around 100 hours of prime time radio news coverage – breakfast, lunch, drive time and 10pm evening news on BBC 1,2,4 and 5, LBC and Times Radio – in an effort to better understand the level of diversity in today’s media landscape. It is not an exhaustive survey and some shows have been omitted because of unreliable data – but what even this incomplete snapshot reveals is shocking.
In this report we looked at Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic contributors, often referred to as BAME, but we have also tried to investigate in a more nuanced way what is happening to Black journalists, by which we mean those from African or Afro-Caribbean backgrounds.
Not a single story by a Black reporter appeared on the front page of a UK newspaper. And in that time only six front page stories were written by BAME reporters. Three BAME men wrote four of the stories (Vikram Dodd of the Guardian wrote two), and two were written by BAME women, Kana Inagaki in the Financial times and Hanna Geissler of the Daily Express). Radio also performed poorly. That week LBC did not have a single Black or BAME presenter on its radio station during prime-time hours monitored; and Newsnight’s panel guests were 100 per cent white.
When it comes to the intersection of race and gender the situation is worse; the data reveals that not a single Black woman journalist had written an article on the front page of any of the newspapers during the monitored time period (no Black men did either) and out of 174 front page bylines, just two were written by BAME women. Black women are not only not being given the chance to write front page stories, they are not being heard as experts quoted in such stories either; out of 111 people quoted in front page stories over the course of the week, just one was a Black woman. She was Jen Reid, the Black female protester who was cast in metal and erected instead of slave trader Edward Colston on the empty plinth in Bristol. Jen was quoted in The Guardian.
It is not just Black women who are rarely heard. Just three BAME women were quoted on front pages of the newspapers over the course of the week – they were the Home Secretary Priti Patel, Aishwarya Bachchan and Pooja Kumra.
The week saw some major events relating to the Black Lives Matter movement and as a result much of the news coverage focussed on these topics. Black and BAME guests were often brought on to focus specifically on these themes: out of all Black and BAME expert guest appearances on TV, more than half were in the context of coverage either directly related to race, such as for topics involving colonialsm or Black Lives Matter, or during coverage of non-white communities, or during coverage focussing on predominantly non-white countries.
When it comes to more diverse representation across the media, the situation is worst in print. But although TV appears better with more diverse faces fronting shows – 30% of TV presenters in our research are Black or BAME – it is worth noting that only a paltry 12 per cent of TV reporters on these top TV shows are Black or BAME.
To put this in context, the 2011 Census found that people from Asian ethnic groups make up 7.5 per cent of the population and Black ethnic groups make up 3.3 per cent but these are widely acknowledged to be out of date. For instance, a recent study from the University of Manchester found that white Britons are now a minority in Leicester, Luton and Slough – and according to think tank Policy Exchange, ethnic minorities are likely to account for almost a third of the population by 2050. In London this trend is already pronounced. According to the ONS 3.32 million people in London were born outside the UK, of these a third were born within the EU but two thirds come from outside the EU, with India being the most common country of birth for London residents. The media knows that in order to engage audiences its staff need to reflect them, but in newspapers in particular change has not kept pace with demographics, or indeed happened at all. As one senior BAME writer told WIJ: “Newspapers have shown no desire to change in the 20 years I have been in them because they don’t have to. No one holds them to account.”
“Newspapers have shown no desire to change in the 20 years I have been in them because they don’t have to. No one holds them to account.”
In order to progress, to move the dial when it comes to diversity in a meaningful manner, we need to measure where we are at the moment. In the majority of media organisations this is not happening. We did approach the Managing Editors of newspapers and producers of all the programmes we monitored asking them for their own figures on diversity in terms of Black and BAME reporters, editors, producers and the experts invited on their prime-time shows to comment. We received a couple of generic replies along the lines of “It is a priority for us to map our global workforce demographics…and we are committed to creating a diverse workforce and promoting inclusion” but so far no actual numbers.
In business, it is an old truism that what gets measured gets done. We hope this research will be the spur required to encourage media organisations to monitor diversity more seriously and to use that as a baseline to improve, dramatically, their representation. If we want to reflect the people we report on there is much to do. The time for bromides is past – this report demands action.
Our Key Findings
- Not a single black reporter was featured on the front page of any of the newspapers.
- Out of the 174 front-page bylines counted, just one in four went to women.
- Out of the 111 people quoted on the front pages, just 16% were women. That’s one in six.
- Out of the 111 people quoted on the front pages, just one was a black woman. That was Jen Reid, quoted in The Guardian after a statue of her was erected in the place of that of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.
- Seven of the 11 major newspapers checked did not feature a single BAME reporter on the front page
- While prime-time TV presenters tend to be relatively diverse, (around 30%) only 12% of reporters are from a Black or BAME background and the experts that they call on are far more likely to be men than women. Out of 877 expert guests featured on prime-time TV news shows during the week, just 30% were women.
- Newsnight failed to include a single non-white expert guest.
- Out of a combined total 816 expert guests appearances over the course of all 133 prime-time radio newscasts, 68% were men.
- When BAME expert guests were asked to appear on prime-time radio and TV news, it was often to support coverage related to race. Out of all BAME expert guests’ appearances on TV, more than half were in the context of coverage either directly related to race, such as for topics involving colonialism and Black Lives Matter, or during coverage of Black and BAME communities.
- Every single prime-time presenter on LBC was white and all 27 slots were filled by men apart from Shelagh Fogarty on at 1-4pm and Rachel Johnson on at 6-7pm on Friday July 17th. Out of the 119 times a reporter was featured on LBC’s prime-time programmes, just 23% were women, and every single one was white.
- Out of a total of 723 prime-time radio reporter appearances across the radio news monitored, just four were by black women.
- Hear WIJ Chair Eleanor Mills, Editor-in-chief of The i paper, Oly Duff and founder of gal-dem, Liv Little discuss the shocking lack of Black, BAME & gender diversity in UK newsrooms with Amol Rajan on the Media Show on BBC Radio 4 here.
- Hear WIJ committee member Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Marjorie Deane professor of financial journalism and Guardian columnist and WIJ committee member, Jane Martinson, and one of the chief researchers of the project, Amal Warsame on BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour discussing their reactions to the research and what needs to be done here.
- BBC Newsnight accused over failure to interview any BAME guests for a week – The Guardian
- In an increasingly diverse world, the media has remained dominated by three overlapping rings of power: overwhelmingly pale, male and posh. – Marjorie Deane professor of financial journalism and Guardian columnist and WIJ committee member, Jane Martinson’s column in The Guardian.
- ‘Black women are invisible’ – how a new survey on journalism diversity told us what we already knew. Zesha Saleem’s article about the research in gal-dem.
- WIJ committee member Sonya Thomas speaks to Ian Collins on TalkRadio at 2:30 pm. Listen here.