Freelance Journalist

September 21, 2020 (Updated )

The lack of diversity within the British media is neither new or surprising. However, a new study by Women in Journalism has forced the issue back into places into the places where it often gets pushed aside. Amal Warsame, one of the lead researchers on the project, writes for Journo Resources about the research.

The ‘debate’ around diversity in British media has been around for years. But this year the debate was different, especially after the devastating death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement taking place across the world.

Data on diversity in British newsrooms has not been widely collected – but the numbers that are available has always shown there is a clear lack of representation for BAME individuals. A study by the NCTJ back in 2016 found that 94 percent of the industry was white, despite the concentration of the industry in London, where just 60 percent of the population is white.

You can see a full copy of the Women in Journalism report here, alongside a press release with the key findings.

Despite the industry acknowledging its shortcomings, it clear that it’s still not inclusive enough – and that newsrooms are still dominated by white, middle class men. As a young journalist just starting out on their career, I was aware of the lack of diversity in the British media landscape. But as I started to collect data from TV news programmes I realised the extent of the problem – and I was shocked.

Just One Black Women Was Quoted Out Of 111 Interviewees

Our analysis revealed that newspapers failed to feature a single Black reporter on their front pages during the week in July we monitored. It’s only a snapshot, but fact remains that the only Black female quoted on the front pages was Jen Reid in The Guardian – she was one out of 111 interviewees across all the papers we monitored.

“I was aware of the lack of diversity in the media industry, but as I started to collect data I realised the extent of the problem.”

Amal Warsame

Despite some amazing work by non-white reporters, our media industry has a history of being dominated by middle class white men. More recently it has made a move towards including more women – but that clearly hasn’t extended to race diversity and even women as a collective remain disadvantaged. Out of the 174 front-page bylines we counting, just one in four went to women. Of the 111 people quoted on front pages, just 16 percent were women. That’s one in six.

Jen Reid was the only Black women quoted in any of the front pages. (Image Credit: Wikimedia)

The lack of diversity in our newspapers was also mirrored in prime time radio programmes – our research uncovered a huge lack of diversity and was shockingly dominated by white reporters. Out of a total of 723 prime time radio reporter appearances during the week, just four were by Black women. Another astonishing example is that out of a combined total of 816 expert guest appearances, 68 percent were men.

While our data, collected by graduates from City and Westminster universities, is only a snapshot, it still highlights the scale of the problem before us. We identified the prime radio and TV news programmes and assigned researchers to watch or listen to hundreds of hours of programming. We recorded the gender and race of presenters, reporters, and experts who appeared, and from newspapers counted all the bylines and subjects quoted.

‘I They Would Be More Diverse. That Was Not The Case’

Our media needs to reflect the people it serves. (Image Credit: WOCInTech)

I didn’t realise the extent of the problem until I did the research – I’d though there might be a fair amount of diversity. After all, this isn’t a new problem. This was not the case – it was obvious newsrooms were not diverse enough. Especially for a broadcaster like the BBC I’d expected more, but that was not the case for Newsnight which failed to include a single non-white expert guest.

British media needs to acknowledge the talent of young BAME journalists, but it also needs to encourage professional development. Journalism can be a challenging industry to work in anyway, but with the stark lack of diversity, many people of colour could be discouraged from both joining and progressing.

“The British media needs to be the voice of the people, so it needs to represent from all backgrounds.”

Amal Warsame

It’s important to have leadership that recognises the need for change and drives it forward. They need to take it seriously and it can’t just be box ticking task. It needs to happen sooner rather than later – and, in my eyes, the time has come to enforce positive discrimination in British newsrooms. At the end of the day, the British media needs to be the voice of the people, so it needs to represent people from all backgrounds and walks of life.

Featured Image: Vectezy