BBC Radio & Music boosts its diversity commitments with £12 million of dedicated funding and new targeted initiatives

BBC Radio & Music has announced it is boosting its commitments to diversity and inclusion, with a clear goal to be the best organisation in the audio sector to work with and for, with an inclusive culture, diverse teams and representative programmes.

As a first in the radio industry, BBC Radio is committing £12m of its existing commissioning budget over the next three years specifically towards diverse and inclusive content. This significant amount of money covers new programming commissioned by network radio and BBC Sounds from 21/22, open to both in-house and independent production companies to compete for. The qualifying commissions will create content across criteria including diverse stories and portrayals, diverse production teams and talent, and diverse-led companies.

BBC Radio will take the lead in creating a more representative, inclusive production community in the UK. We’ll ask our suppliers in the independent sector to meet a 20% diversity target in their teams.

We’ll also invest in creating more opportunities for emerging, diverse audio talent. We’ll launch BBC Sounds Lab this autumn, our new initiative giving budding audio creators the support they need to turn a great idea of theirs into a podcast outside of the existing commissioning structure. Over the course of a year each of the creators will be aided by an experienced executive producer, and will have access to studios and equipment at the BBC as well as technical support so their podcast can be made available to listeners. Some of the podcasts will also be made available as commissions on BBC Sounds.

These initiatives will target the areas in which we have the most work to do when it comes to representation, including ethnicity, disability and social-economic background.

The funding comes from existing budgets, and we are simply making choices on how we spend our money so that we can best serve our audiences. This is just the start. We’ll be confirming more details on the plans in due course. BBC Audio, our in-house production team, already has specific diversity targets in place.

James Purnell, Director BBC Radio & Education says: “Aided by these commitments, we will build a diverse, creative future for BBC Radio & Music, relevant to all our audiences. We’ll hear more diverse stories, voices and experiences on air, and open up the BBC and the whole industry for people to thrive in, regardless of who they are or where they come from.”  

“Last month we signed up to the Equality in Audio Pact, an initiative which kick-started a hugely important discussion in the industry, and today we are putting forward our commitments which we hope will add to the overall ambition of the audio sector to change and become more representative.”

June Sarpong, Director of Creative Diversity, says: “I am proud that the BBC is accelerating the pace of change and boosting our commitment to diverse talent – with a specific focus on race, disability and class – ensuring that the creativity of some of our most underrepresented communities is unleashed and included. Building on our Creative Diversity Commitment for TV, these changes will make a huge difference to our Radio and Music teams, the wider audio industry, and what listeners can expect to hear on the BBC.”

These commitments are part of a wide-ranging plan to create more diverse teams, representative programmes and an inclusive culture across BBC Radio & Music, including:

  • Going further than the divisional BAME workforce target of 15% by 2021 by asking every part of BBC Radio & Music to meet this by end of 2023.
  • Committing to improving on-air representation and improving representation in contributors by rolling out the 50/50 project to include ethnicity and disability in 50 programmes by end of 2021.
  • Ensuring we have a more diverse range of decision-makers in the commissioning teams, including looking at launching the Assistant Commissioner scheme in Radio following the success in Content.
  • Building a genuinely inclusive culture where everyone is welcome, can speak out and succeed; and ensuring there’s clear accountability.  
  • A rebooted and measurable diversity and inclusion plan for BBC Orchestras and Choirs continuing, and building on, our commitment to lasting change in the sector.
  • Launching a raft of editorial plans which will see increased exploration of diverse music and experiences on air, and a broader range of voices and stories represented.

Across the BBC, there are wide-ranging diversity and inclusion initiatives in place which we’ll continue to engage with.

Last month, BBC Content announced the Creative Diversity commitment – the biggest financial investment to on-air inclusion in the industry – which will prioritise £100m of the BBC’s existing commissioning budget over three years (from 2021/22-2023/24) towards diverse and inclusive content. This will be supported by a new mandatory 20% off-screen diversity target in all new network commissions from April 2021. More details here.

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