THE BLOG

How Understanding Social Disadvantage Is Crucial to Increasing Diversity in TV

14/08/2014 16:40 BST | Updated 14/10/2014 10:12 BST

This is the common story for many potential new entrants from disadvantaged backgrounds trying to get their first Runner position in TV. The most junior role in the production department often means doing errands, fetching coffees and lunches, and occasionally driving between studios and filming locations. Still, both work experience and a driving license are a prerequisite.

Schemes like MAMA Youth Project (MYP) have managed to get around the 'no experience' problem. We provide free training for young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds equipping them with all the right skills needed for the first job. Companies such as the BBC, BSkyB, Pro Cam, Shine Media, Endemol, Fremantle and Shed Media have already taken advantage of the new pool of talent, and have offered paid contract to a big percentage of our graduates.

However,there are still many young people out there who can't get their foot in door because they don't have a driving license. This is an important issue which hinders our diversity efforts in the TV industry.

I strongly believe that it is unfair to expect young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to afford paying for a driving licence. Many youngsters we see from BAME or white working class backgrounds often come from single parent homes, are young parents themselves or are even classified as homeless, surviving on the Job Seekers allowance. Even recent graduates can't afford the driving course as they are burdened by student debt.

So what's the solution? Here are my 3 suggestions to get past this hurdle and continue to build a diverse workforce in TV:

1. Don't ask everyone for a driver licence

As a production house, you might need one or two runners who can drive. But it's not vital for all of them to be able to. So why not create new job descriptions so that runners can apply even without a licence. As many insurance policies only allow drivers over 21, this would be a great way to open the door for younger people and those fighting their way out of tricky financial situations.

2. Give runners 6 months to get a licence

Most people struggling to make it in TV are very responsible with their finances and know they need to invest in their future. So if you can see potential in someone why not offer them a contract with the condition that a driving licence is needed within 6 months. The young people I meet are extremely determined. Once they earn a salary from a stable job, they would jump on the opportunity to improve their CV and apply for a driving licence. Sometimes, all they need is someone to give them a chance so they can prove their worth.

3. Sponsor their driving classes

If companies are serious about innovating, getting new ideas on our screens and tapping into new talent, then investing in taking new entrants from disadvantaged diverse backgrounds is the right way to go. There are some young people who's home life is so challenging that even with a small salary, they may not be able to afford driving lessons. In this is the case, why not make a small investment and help them by paying for the first 15 lessons. Embed this in in your corporate responsibility programme and start reaping the rewards by seeing new ideas flowing in.

Whichever solution works best for you, my key message for everyone from big broadcasters to small indies is this - keep an open mind, try to understand the issues hindering diversity and then start looking for solutions. Some might be as easy as deleting one line from a job description.