BBC announces £12 million diversity budget for radio

BBC Radio and Music has allocated £12 million of its existing commissioning budget over the next three years to be spent on diverse and inclusive content.

The money covers new programmes commissioned by its national radio stations and BBC Sounds from 2021-22 – and will be able for both independent production companies and in-house BBC teams to compete for. The BBC says it will ‘create content across criteria including diverse stories and portrayals, diverse production teams and talent, and diverse-led companies’.

Suppliers in the independent production sector will be asked to meet a 20% diversity target in their teams, and the BBC says it will invest in creating more opportunities for ’emerging, diverse audio talent’.

BBC Sounds Lab, launching in the autumn, will also give 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.

The £12m comes from existing budgets and is apart of wider measures to improve diversity in BBC Radio.

James Purnell, Director BBC Radio & Education said: “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, said: “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.”

Other projects to increase diversity include BAME workforce targets for every team in BBC Radio and Music, the 50/50 project for gender diversity among on-air contributors being extended to include ethnicity and disability, and ensuring a more diverse range of decision-makers in commissioning teams.