Landmark Report Published on Disability Representation in U.K. TV

A new, landmark report has been published detailing representation of disabled people in the U.K. TV industry on and off the screen.

The report, from Creative Diversity Network (CDN), shows it will take almost two decades for disabled people to be properly represented in the industry. While 17% of the U.K. workforce is disabled, and 18% of the U.K.’s population, in the TV industry there are only 4.5% of disabled people working behind the camera and 6.8% in front of it.

13,000 additional disabled individuals need to enter the industry in order to reflect the general population.

“Diamond at 5: A deep dive into the representation of disabled people in U.K. television” draws on 5 years of data, from Aug. 2016-July 2021, making it the most comprehensive analysis of the state of the industry to date. It was commissioned as part of CDN’s Doubling Disability initiative.

While the report shows some improvements in representation, behind the screen these are limited to non-senior roles, most of which are in children’s and factual. In other genres representation has remained static or, in some cases, declined. On-screen, there has been improvement in scripted, particularly drama, comedy and children’s, but this has been tempered by non-scripted, where representation of individuals with disabilities have remained low or decreased (except in presenter/reporter roles).

In scripted, much of the improvement is also down to existing talent being given more opportunities rather than the discovery of new disabled talent.

Looking across U.K. networks, BBC has the highest proportion of contributions by disabled people followed by Channel 4.

“Our analysis clearly reveals just how much disability, and disabled-led organisations and individuals have been excluded from the diversity conversation in the U.K. television industry, and how this has contributed to a lack of understanding of how disabled people’s lives are interlinked to their representation in television,” said Deborah Williams, CEO of CDN.

“But all is not lost. I fully believe that with the data and evidence we’ve gathered, which properly highlight the gaps, trends, and where progress is or isn’t taking place, we can work collaboratively as producers, broadcasters, streamers, training providers, government and insurers to bring about the lasting and meaningful transformation in our industry to which we are all committed.”

CDN has made some recommendations including that the industry should build an inclusive commissioning process and working environment, more disabled individuals are needed in senior roles and access provision and reasonable adjustments (which are already a legal requirement) should become standard across the industry.

Read the full report here.

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