The BBC has pledged to quadruple the number of disabled people it puts on TV by 2017 as part of a “radical” package of measures across the corporation including a new disability champion.
BBC director general Tony Hall said the corporation would “work tirelessly [to] open up many more opportunities for disabled people at the BBC”, less than a month after he announced plans to improve its black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation.
According to the BBC’s own figures, only 1.2% of people it portrays or represents on TV are disabled. It has pledged to increase this to 5% within three years.
The BBC said the statistics were based on peaktime programming on its four main channels, BBC1 to BBC4.
Along with its target to quadruple on-air representation and portrayal from 1.2% to 5% by 2017, it said it would look to increase the percentage of all BBC staff who are disabled from 3.7% today to 5.3% in 2017, and disabled leadership roles from 3.1% to 5% in the same period.
Channel 4 has stolen a march on the BBC in terms of disability programming in recent years, beginning with its coverage of the Paralympics at the London 2012 Games.
Some of the stars of its Paralympics coverage went on to present their own shows, including Adam Hills, with The Last Leg, and Arthur Williams. Other Channel 4 shows have proved more controversial, including The Undateables and I’m Spazticus.
The BBC said on Wednesday it would appoint a pan-BBC disability executive to champion disabled talent and projects and open up more opportunities for disabled people to work across the corporation.
Hall said: “It is vital we reflect the public we serve – both on- and off-air. While the BBC has some good schemes in place, we must and can do significantly more. That’s why we want to quadruple on-screen representation and open up many more opportunities for disabled people to work at the BBC.
“We will now work tirelessly to achieve our new ambitions, and reserve the option of going even further in the future.”
The BBC said Hall would be advised on the issue by members of the Independent Diversity Advisory Group.
Its members include Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a former wheelchair racer and TV presenter who won 16 Paralympic medals, and former BBC executive Tanya Motie.