As few as one per cent of the employees working for some UK broadcasters have described themselves as disabled people, according to new research by the industry regulator.
Ofcom’s Diversity And Equal Opportunities In Television report says disabled people appear to be “significantly under-represented” across the television industry, at just three per cent.
The Ofcom report – which focuses on the five main broadcasters, but also looks at another 342 smaller organisations – found that only one per cent of staff working for ITV and Viacom (which owns Channel 5) describe themselves as disabled.
Sky is only slightly better, at two per cent, while Channel 4 performed best with disabled people making up 11 per cent of its workforce.
Although the report says that only four per cent of BBC staff say they are disabled, this figure represents the calendar year 2016 and new figures, following a diversity and inclusion census carried out towards the end of last year, show a much higher proportion, at 10 per cent*.
The Ofcom report says there is a “worrying” lack of data on disability, with no information on 30 per cent of staff across the television industry.
ITV provided disability data on fewer than half of its employees, while Sky provided disability information on just two per cent of its staff.
Ofcom also says it has now started enforcement action against 57 broadcasters, because of their failure to provide any data on gender, race and disability.
Simon Balcon, a member of the deaf and disabled members committee (DDMC) of the performers’ union Equity, welcomed the Ofcom report.
He said: “I think that it’s great that reports like this actually exist, and that attention to the issue of casting actors with disabilities is getting more attention.
“I also think that more can be done, though. While the BBC is doing more than other channels to be progressive with its casting, actors with disabilities are less visible than on other channels, strange as this may seem.
“I would echo the report’s concern… that there is a worrying lack of data for disabled people, as this does not give us a full picture.
“However, I am glad the Ofcom is taking action against those who refuse to supply information.”
Balcon said the report showed there was “certainly more that broadcasters can do for freelancers with a disability [particularly actors and other artists], as only one per cent are in this category.”
And he said he agreed that “more monitoring needs to be done, as the picture may not be accurate at present.
“More organisations must monitor their employees and those employed as freelancers, and then we can get a clearer picture.”
Sharon White, Ofcom’s chief executive, says in the report: “Disabled people are particularly poorly represented at all levels of the industry.”
The report concludes: “Broadcasters have an obligation, as a condition of their licences, to take measures to promote equality of opportunity in employment.
“Without accurate monitoring, it is unclear how some broadcasters can identify any gaps, ensure the relevance of their equality and diversity policies, and plan engagement with their employees to promote these policies.”
The report is Ofcom’s first from its new Diversity in Broadcasting monitoring programme, which will reveal how well broadcasters’ employment policies are promoting equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion.
*The BBC data includes both television and radio staff
Picture: Disabled actor Liz Carr as Clarissa Mullery in BBC’s Silent Witness