Sunday, 15 September 2019

My stage 2 complaint to the BBC on their middle aged women problem. Of which I seem to be a part.

On-screen diversity monitoring BBC One & BBC Two 2018 CRG content analysis report


BBC Executive Complaints Unit.

To whom it may concern

The Charter
4. To reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the United Kingdom’s nations and regions and, in doing so, support the creative economy across the United Kingdom
The BBC should reflect the diversity of the United Kingdom both in its output and services. In doing so, the BBC should accurately and authentically represent and portray the lives of the people of the United Kingdom today, and raise awareness of the different cultures and alternative viewpoints that make up its society. It should ensure that it provides output and services that meet the needs of the United Kingdom’s nations, regions and communities. The BBC should bring people together for shared experiences and help contribute to the social cohesion and wellbeing of the United Kingdom. In commissioning and delivering output the BBC should invest in the creative economies of each of the nations and contribute to their development.

Our values are:
  • Trust is the foundation of the BBC. We’re independent, impartial and honest
  • We put audiences at the heart of everything we do
  • We respect each other and celebrate our diversity
  • We take pride in delivering quality and value for money
  • Creativity is the lifeblood of our organisation
  • We’re one BBC. Great things happen when we work together

I wanted to put your Charter commitments and your values at the top of my email because I think it's important for you to be reminded of them from the outset. I also wanted to particularly highlight where I feel that you're failing both the charter and your values in your responses to me thus far.

I reference to my complaint made about the BBC's lack of onscreen representation of women in middle age

I wish to draw the ECU's attention in the first instance to the response from the diversity lead team which led to my request to an escalation of my complaint.

In my original complaint I listed several key issues where I felt that the BBC is failing in its charter obligation to represent its entire audience, including middle aged women.

The response from the Diversity Lead didn't at any point reference the entirety of my concerns but instead chose to name 8 women over the age of forty who are presenters. 

Naturally I felt that despite the assurances of the BBC that you wish to lead the way on equality, my complaint was met with at best disinterest. I'm sure that everyone in the diversity team is busy but I do feel that my points merited a more considered and fuller response.

In the escalation response from the complaints team I feel they misrepresented Ofcom and their particular concern( detailed in their BBC review from autumn 2018), about the lack of parity between middle aged men and middle aged women onscreen in Prime time programming. 

"You mention the Ofcom report from October 2018 and we’re pleased this report recognises the progress we’ve made in better representing and portraying a wide mix of people. 
As the report shows, this is a challenge facing all broadcasters and we know there’s more to do, but Ofcom recognises we’ve already taken action to achieve this.  We’ve set targets of 50% for women on screen, on-air and in lead roles. We’ve recently published four reports looking at culture and career progression - for women, BAME, LGBT and those from different socio-economic backgrounds - with a fifth report on disability in progress. We’re committed to supporting diversity in the BBC so that we can do more to reflect and represent the diversity of the UK in all that we do."

My complaint wasn't about any of the issues mentioned there. The BBC complaints and diversity team know this. I was very clear. I mentioned specifically the current ratio which OFCOM detailed I.E. the fact that middle aged male onscreen talent out numbers middle aged female talent by 3-1. 
OFCOM drew attention to this because it's a problem at the BBC which they are identifying. I drew attention to this because it remains a problem which I am identifying and the BBC complaints and diversity team chose to draw attention away from my specific complaint, to a positive which they prefer to identify. 
I would further highlight that in mentioning women, BAME, LGBT, those from different socio economic backgrounds and disabled people whilst simultaneously ignoring middle aged women in these named groups you are perhaps unaware of the fact that middle aged women, exist in all of these groups too. I don't mean to shock you over there but not every woman, BAME, LGBT person, socio economic group or disabled person in the UK and BBC territories is in fact, young. 
I'm 53 and autistic AND a woman.
I know this is hard to believe, but it happens. From BBC Sounds and their "we're focusing on under 35's for now" response to my inquiry about a podcast submission idea,  to a recent series on mental health featuring two middle aged men and a young woman, despite the ONS reporting that the only growth area for female suicides are women over 50; the BBC have a middle aged woman representation problem and you need to address it rather than ignore me.

So yes huge applause from me for the fact that diversity exists at the BBC for young people and middle aged men. However 50% percent of representation of everyone except women over the age of 45, isn't a boast for a public broadcaster to be proud of. It should in fact be something for you to be ashamed of. 
Especially given that this issue became a legal case which the BBC lost to Miriam O'Reilly in 2011. The assurances of 'learning, listening and doing better' seem to have been ignored, as it seems has your value of being 'one BBC who believe great things happen when we (or I should say you and anyone under 45, unless they're male) work together'.

We could, of course look at this from another aspect entirely. I'm sorry to mention the open wound of licence fees but viewed from my perspective it is relevant. Perhaps if you're only going to give my demographic a third of the representation onscreen and on air, then maybe you could also only charge me a third of the licence fee for a BBC which is representing people who aren't me, two thirds more frequently.

It's just a thought. 

I would be most grateful if you might consider what I'm saying. I'd also be grateful if your creative opportunities which your theoretically (if not actually) ameliorating paragraph from complaints mentions above, namely career progression. What lovely idea that is, if you're young. I recently saw an advert for a competition run between the BBC and rural media. For once the creative content audio competition was in my region, the West Midlands. It was for audio content, my medium. It was for writer performers, my creative genre.

It was also for people under the age of 30. 

Career opportunities for people of my age don't exist at the BBC unless you're already there, unless you're already established, or unless, you're young. This is something else you might consider looking into or reassuring me about, in an optimistic response? 
Another shocking notion is that women attempt to return to the career they trained for or worked in like acting. I took a career break of twenty years to care for my two disabled children and mum who had Alzheimers. When I tried to restart a creative career at 50 this was deemed laughable.

Ricky Gervais began his stellar career with the BBC at forty. I'm not sure that would have happened if he'd been a woman. In fact I'm sure it wouldn't. 

Anyway I'll stop now. I'm sure you have more important executive functions to be getting along with. I mean those Youtube influencers aren't going to meet with themselves about a documentary series entitled  "Eyelash extensions which actually like, kill you. Like I'm not even lying. Like, they really like, do"  now are they?

Very best wishes to you,

Nicky Clark
Acting your Age Campaign