Adjusting the Colour Balance


As Chair of Directors UK I’m extremely proud of the campaigning work we do on equality and diversity to help make our industry a fairer, more inclusive place for us all to work. In recent years we’ve heard a lot of talk about diversity and yet it seems the actions taken by regulators, broadcasters and production companies is still making little difference. This is certainly the evidence of our new report on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) directorial representation in UK television. Directors UK reveal that despite some negligible improvement over the last few years, BAME directors still face chronic levels of under-representation and under-employment.

This is extremely frustrating coming just a few weeks after our gender equality report – Who’s Calling the Shots? – which revealed that the gender gap increased across all four of the main UK broadcasters: BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 between 2013-2016, despite the publication of goals, interventions, diversity and inclusion strategies, and the introduction of monitoring through Project Diamond (run by the Creative Diversity Network).

In 2015, Directors UK issued its first ever report on BAME directorial representation. In it, we revealed just how few of the television programmes we watch are directed by BAME directors. We also highlighted the fact that some of the most popular drama, comedy and entertainment shows had never been directed by someone of BAME origin.

Since we published those findings, broadcasters have made bold statements of intent and publicised wide-ranging diversity and inclusion strategies. Meanwhile, Directors UK has been campaigning to ensure that these commitments translate into positive action, enabling all programme makers – including directors – to better reflect the rich and diverse ethnic make-up of their viewing audiences.

This is why we have now launched an updated report for 2018. In Adjusting the Colour Balance: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Representation Among Screen Directors Working in UK Television, we look at television output from 2013-2016 across all four of the main UK broadcasters: BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. We find that while there has been a small amount of improvement overall, the fact that such a negligible increase counts as an improvement only highlights the acute under-representation and under-employment of BAME directors.


Directors UK calls for more career development initiatives for under-represented directors as their latest report reveals the negligible progress made in the employment and representation of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) directors in UK television.

  • The 2013-2016 period saw the percentage of television episodes directed by BAME directors increase slightly (by 0.11 percentage points) from 2.2% in 2013 to 2.31% in 2016.

  • The report highlights the acute levels of under-representation and under-employment of BAME directors and the lack of progress being made by broadcasters and producers.

  • Targeted career development initiatives boost numbers of BAME directed drama episodes.

  • Despite 14% of the population being from BAME backgrounds, just 2.22% of programmes are made by BAME directors, resulting in a cultural separation between the people who make our television programmes and the audiences who watch them.

  • Just 3.6% of the UK television directors featured in our dataset come from BAME backgrounds. In raw numbers: only 158 of the 4,388 directors who appear in this data are of BAME origin.


The report, Adjusting the Colour Balance: Black, Asian and minority ethnic representation among screen directors working in UK Television, analyses the proportion of TV programmes made by BAME directors across the UK’s four main television channels (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) between 2013 and 2016. It highlighted that:

  • No broadcaster made a significant improvement on diversity from 2013 to 2016. The BBC saw a 0.18 percentage point increase, while ITV and Channel 5 experienced a 0.21 and 0.39 percentage-point rise respectively. In the same period, Channel 4 saw a 0.15 percentage-point decline.

  • When examining specific genres, the figures are more varied. The report found little or no improvement in the percentage of episodes made by BAME directors in Factual (a 0.3 percentage-point decrease) or Multi- Camera & Entertainment and Children’s (both increased by 0.1 percentage points). However, there was anoteworthy rise in Drama & Comedy which increased by 1.5 percentage points, from 2.6% in 2013 to 4.1% in 2016.


The report also reveals year on year fluctuations across genres, suggesting an inconsistent approach to achieving change. The findings highlight the lack of progress made in the employment and representation of BAME directors, despite the diversity and inclusion strategies introduced by broadcasters and producers over the years.

The rise in the number of Drama & Comedy episodes made by BAME directors during 2013-16 is due in part to a series of workplace interventions providing career development opportunities for under-represented groups in Continuing Drama (soaps) and Single Drama. These resulted in a 3 percentage-point increase in the number of Continuing Drama episodes directed by BAME directors, from 2.7% to 5.7%, and a rise of 3.6 percentage points in Single Drama, from 2.3% to 5.9%. Doctors (BBC) showed a significant increase in the percentage of episodes that were made by BAME directors – jumping from 6.7% to 21.8% in four years.

The research also indicate that positive interventions including career development initiatives and schemes do positively boost diversity, but, these need to be made available across all genres in order to generate systematic change across programme making.

Directors UK Board member Ashok Prasad said: “I am disappointed at these new results and at the lack of progress since the last report three years ago. I am concerned that there is a very low proportion of BAME directors employed by broadcasters and production companies, indicating a separation between the people who make our TV programmes and the audiences who watch them. Broadcasters and production companies need to dedicate more time, money and effort to ensure that a significant shift is made to diversify the pool of directors working in the UK to properly reflect the makeup of our society.”

In response, Directors UK has set out a number of recommendations to close the diversity gap.


Directors UK CEO Andrew Chowns added: “Although disappointing overall we are glad to see signs of improvement for BAME directors in some genres. What this shows is that deliberate and collaborative interventions in partnership with broadcasters and production companies make a difference to diversity and must become more widely available. The industry can no longer pay lip-service to diversity initiatives. More needs to be done across all genres to ensure that directors from under-represented groups have access to opportunities and career development.”



  • We call on Ofcom to make it mandatory for all UK broadcasters to monitor and publicly report on the

    diversity characteristics of all those making programmes for them, both permanent staff and freelancers.

  • We propose that broadcasters be set targets to ensure their workforce mirrors the gender, ethnic and disability makeup of the UK population by 2020.

  • We call on broadcasters to use fairer recruitment practices for freelancers in line with other industries and provide those in hiring positions with unconscious bias training.

  • We ask all broadcasters to commit 0.25% of their commissioning spend across all programme-making as a levy to fund industry access and career development schemes for under-represented groups.

Directors UK will continue to work with industry organisations as they take action to address the diversity gap.


The dataset covers 47,444 episodes directed by 4,388 directors which were broadcast by the four main UK terrestrial broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2016. An episode represents a single programme, for instance a documentary, or a single episode within a television series or serial. The dataset is divided into five genres:

  • Factual - 46.9% of total dataset (22,280 episodes)

  • Multi-camera & Entertainment - 26.1% of the total dataset (12,423 episodes) Drama & Comedy - 18.2% of the total dataset (8,667 episodes)

  • Children’s - 8.2% of the total dataset (3,906 episodes)

  • Animation - 0.3% of the total dataset (168 episodes)

A PDF copy of Adjusting The Colour Balance: Black, Asian And Minority Ethnic Representation Among Screen Directors Working In UK Television report and further information can be found at

Further information can be found at

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Steve Smith