Naomi Campbell and Jon Snow highlight a lack of diversity across the UK media industry

Posted 31 August 2017

Last week supermodel Naomi Campbell made headlines when she took to Instagram to criticise the lack of diversity in the British Vogue editorial team under previous Editor, Alexandra Shulman.

But a lack of diversity isn’t limited to the corridors of British Vogue, or the editorial meetings of high-end fashion publications. The picture of the British Vogue team is a snapshot of something that won’t come as a shock to many. Britain’s media industry is predominantly white and middle class.

What the stats say

Last year, a study by City University found that 94% of the British journalism industry is white. Another recent study by The Sutton Trust found that over half of the country’s top editors, journalists and broadcasters went to private school compared to only 7% of the British population as a whole. A very small pool of people is shaping Britain’s news agenda and this has consequences.

In increasingly fractured Britain, we are comfortably with the elite

Jon Snow, Channel 4 News Presenter

Jon Snow’s MacTaggart Memorial Lecture

During the MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival last week, Channel 4 News Presenter, Jon Snow highlighted the “disconnect” between the media and the events shaping the country today: “in increasingly fractured Britain, we are comfortably with the elite, with little awareness, contact, or connection with those not of the elite.”

Channel 4 News Presenter Jon Snow delivered this year’s prestigious James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival last Wednesday.

His speech centered around the Grenfell Tower disaster and spoke candidly of the media’s failure to report on the dangers of the building highlighted by the residents prior to the fire which shocked the nation in June: “the Grenfell residents’ story was out there, published online and shocking in its accuracy. It was hidden in plain sight, but we had stopped looking. The disconnect complete.”

He continued that the central cause of the “disconnect” was the barriers to entering a career in journalism based on “background rather than merit.”

So what can we take from that?

It’s not just that the benefits of a rich and diverse media are easy to see but it’s also clear that a lack of diversity is creating a gulf between those forming the news agenda and a large proportion of society. But that doesn’t mean a rich and diverse industry is easily achievable. And if you are a young person who doesn’t fit the pre-determined mould that the industry has been built on, how do you begin to carve out a career in journalism?

Media Trust is a good place to start. The charity’s youth journalism programmes like London360, Breaking Into News and Creativity Works all aim to discover and develop the skills of young, diverse talent. What’s more, their programmes are run in partnership with some of Britain’s leading media outlets like ITN, ITV News and London Live.

Creativity works trainees with Jon Snow in the Channel 4 news rooms

Creativity Works Multimedia Genius Trainee's with Jon Snow on a visit to Channel 4 News earlier this year

Breaking the mould

The London360 programme trains diverse young Londoners aged 18-25 in researching, presenting, filming, editing and compliance. In doing so, they produce their own weekly television show, London Undercover, which investigates some of the biggest issues concerning Londoners. The show is broadcast in on London London Live and nationally on Community Channel (Freeview, Sky and Virgin). And the programme is making real waves in the industry with 80% of London360 graduates going on to secure a job in the media industry.

London360 Series 12 reporters

London360 Series 12 reporters

Over the past few years there seems to be a genuine interest and commitment by broadcasters to ensure our sector is more diverse both behind and in front of the camera

Jasmine Dotiwala, London360 Executive Producer and Project Manager

London360’s Executive Producer and Project Manager, Jasmine Dotiwala is an outspoken advocate of increasing diversity within the media industry. As a member of The Cultural TV Diversity Network and MTV Europe Diversity Council she believes things are starting to change:“Over the past few years there seems to be a genuine interest and commitment by broadcasters to ensure our sector is more diverse both behind and in front of the camera.”

And she could be right. Last week, the diversity in the media industry debate took the headlines twice. So can real change be on the way? Time will tell.

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