Belfast Telegraph

Broadcasters have made significant progress toward diversity, says Ofcom boss

Kevin Bakhurst was giving evidence to the House of Lords Communications Committee.

A sign at the offices of Ofcom (Yui Mok/PA)
A sign at the offices of Ofcom (Yui Mok/PA)

A leading boss at broadcasting watchdog Ofcom said he “wouldn’t disagree” with comments made by Sir Lenny Henry about diversity at the UK’s public service broadcasters (PSBs).

Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s group director for content and media policy, said PSBs had made “significant progress” towards diversity, but that they should not be “complacent”.

Mr Bakhurst made the comments in front of House of Lords Communications Committee, looking into public service broadcasting in the age of video on demand.

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Sir Lenny Henry giving evidence to the House of Lords Communications Committee (House of Commons/PA)

Last month, Sir Lenny told the committee PSBs needed to create a safe space for minorities to vent their feelings without “fearing the noose”.

The comedian said they lacked a mechanism for employees to share complaints without minorities risking being “oppressed or fired”.

While agreeing with Sir Lenny, Mr Bakhurst also told the committee PSBs such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 should be recognised for their efforts.

He said: “I saw the evidence from Simon Albury and Lenny Henry and this is an area we have given a huge amount of thought to. Many of the things he said I wouldn’t disagree with at all.

“To be fair to the PSBs, we know they have made significant progress in their portrayal and representation on screen of the people of the UK. We know that the audience recognises that.

Audiences know what is authentic - they know when drama about particular audiences have been commissioned and written by people from that community and when they haven't Kevin Bakhurst

“Now, there is some way to go and nobody should be complacent about it.”

He added: “Have the broadcasters made progress? Undoubtedly they have.

“You can see it on screen, you can hear it on air.”

Mr Bakhurst said more “authentic” content would help recapture young and minority viewers who had migrated to streaming services like Netflix.

He said: “They know it is not just important because it is the right thing to do. It’s important because it is the only way to come back to connecting with audiences and young audiences.

“Audiences know what is authentic. They know when drama about particular audiences has been commissioned and written by people from that community and when it hasn’t.

“They can spot a lack of authenticity. Broadcasters know increasingly that it is not only the right thing to do, but that it is critical to their businesses that they must deliver this and must deliver it better.”

PA

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