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Making the BBC more diverse

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 | By Paul Nettleton
The challenge of delivering BBC director-general Tony Hall’s plans for greater black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation on and off air were detailed by the corporation’s HR director Karen Moran at the CIPD talent conference earlier this week in London.

She set his announcement of a target for one in six people on-air to be from BAME backgrounds within three years against the financial background of a licence fee frozen until 2017.

Ahead was “a very difficult charter renewal discussion” and there had also been, over Jimmy Savile, “probably the biggest crisis the BBC has ever had” that had cost the job of Hall’s predecessor after 54 days.

Even before this, Moran said, there were issues of a risk averse, bureaucratic public sector organisation with 18 job grades and 30 different salary allowances, where trade unions pushed back against reform attempts, and where many people had long service.

“We have some really great, ambitious youngsters who are not able to progress up to the level they want because they are in a ‘dead man’s shoes’ scenario,” she said.

High redundancy pay meant it was difficult to make redundancies. But the lack of churn meant some areas of radio “have not had an external person recruited in a long time”.

In response to a question about talent bottlenecks, she later said that today “a lot of your career progression is sideways”, developing skills laterally across an organisation.

Then there was the competition in future media. “We are really struggling because we are competing with people like Google, Facebook and Twitter,” Moran said.

Being in the public sector meant “we can’t pay bonuses, we can’t pay above the market rate”.

But agreeing with the premise that “culture eats strategy for lunch”, she said the BBC was able to offer its brand and heritage, interesting work in fast-paced media and the clear social purpose that was so important to young people today.

Commitments to diversity were only words “unless you have your senior leaders walking the talk”. Getting traction had been difficult. Then, she said: “Tony Hall comes in and says diversity is a really important thing and all of a sudden everybody is talking about diversity.”
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