THE BBC is set to recruit more working class employees in a diversity shake-up under a new director general.
Employees will also have to complete a “unconscious bias” training programme, which aims for 95 per cent of staff to declare their social status.
Staff will be armed with “inclusion toolkit” of resources “to tackle non-inclusive behavioursCredit: Alamy
They will be quizzed on whether they were privately educated, or if they were eligible for free school meals, or what jobs their parents had when they were growing up.
The results will be used to set a “meaningful target”, which aims to give more people from working class backgrounds opportunities within the BBC.
By January next year, 95 per cent of BBC employees will have completed mandatory unconscious bias training.
Figures contained in the BBC’s most recent annual report showed that – of those who responded – 61 per cent came from a family where the main breadwinner was a professional or senior manager, compared to just 26 per cent with the highest-earning parent in a routine or manual job.
I firmly believe that at this time you’ll rarely hear or see anyone like me on BBC TV or network radio. This has to change.
Mike Sweeney, BBC Radio Manchester
The broadcaster has been accused of employing staff from limited social backgrounds, resulting in an out-of-touch workforce.
One radio presenter, who deemed himself to be working class and had worked in the “real world” before joining the BBC, told bosses that the corporation felt like a “like a gated community”.
Mike Sweeney, a veteran DJ on BBC Radio Manchester said: “I’m from an impoverished, northern, working class, Irish Catholic background.
“I left school in 1962 with no qualifications and worked in the ‘real world’ as an engineering fitter, coal miner, docker, van driver,” said Sweeney, who also sang in punk band The Salford Jets.
He spent 33 years in commercial radio before joining the BBC seven years ago. “In the commercial radio world, my background was a huge positive.
“But I feel that the BBC can seem like a gated community for the privileged.
“I firmly believe that at this time you’ll rarely hear or see anyone like me on BBC TV or network radio. This has to change,”
The class target is part of a raft of measures included in the BBC’s new Diversity and Inclusion plan.
The BBC will also begin taking into account the number of non-binary people it employs.
And it will arm staff with an “inclusion toolkit” of resources “to tackle non-inclusive behaviours”.
Employees will also be taught “how to embed inclusivity into our day-to-day work and management practices, including a framework for anti-racism.”
The corporation aims to become “the industry gold standard for workplace diversity and inclusion”.
Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, warned the BBC last year that it needed to broaden its outlook.
He said: “By this, I don’t just mean getting authentic and diverse voices on and off screen, although this is important, but also making sure there is genuine diversity of thought and experience.”
Tim Davie, the director-general, has stated that within five years the BBC workforce must be 50 per cent women, at least 20 per cent BAME and at least 12 per cent disabled employees.
The mandatory requirement for the bias testing it likely to come under fire as many experts consider it to be an ineffective technique that can even be deemed “harmful”.
The Cabinet Office says of unconscious bias training: “A strong body of evidence has emerged that shows that such training has no sustained impact on behaviour and may even be counter-productive.
“Instructions to suppress stereotypes may not only activate and reinforce unhelpful stereotypes, they may provoke negative reactions and actually make people exacerbate their biases.”
Tim Davie, the director-general, has stated that within five years the BBC workforce must be 50 per cent women, at least 20 per cent BAMECredit: PA:Press Association/PA Images
The corporation is aiming for a 50 per cent split in genders