- June Sarpong – broadcaster, writer and campaigner - appointed BBC head of diversity
- Two-year tenure reporting to group managing director Bob Shennan
- “I relish the challenge to make the BBC more inclusive and representative,” Sarpong said.
Broadcaster, writer and campaigner June Sarpong has been named as the BBC’s new director of creative diversity.
Sarpong will lead a renewed drive to further transform and modernise the BBC and its culture, working to increase representation and ensure the broadcaster’s content reflects the public it serves.
She will take up the new role from 1 November.
Sarpong is an internationally renowned broadcaster, writer and campaigner on diversity issues.
She started her career as a DJ and presenter on MTV, Kiss FM and for ten years on Channel 4’s T4 youth strand. Since then she has gone on to appear as a panellist on ITV’s Loose Women and now on Sky News’ The Pledge.
From 2010, she has built a reputation as a leading campaigner on a wide range of diversity and inclusion issues. She is a passionate advocate for change in the workplace and a champion for greater representation throughout the media.
Sarpong will focus on improving the BBC’s on-air talent portrayal and commissioning, developing strategies to support both on-air and production talent representation and portrayal across the BBC and its partners.
Sarpong said: “As we move on from National Inclusion Week and begin Black History Month, I am particularly humbled to step into the newly created role of creative diversity director for the BBC. I relish the challenge of working with senior leadership to make the BBC more inclusive and representative of the broad and diverse audience it serves.”
She will serve as an ambassador and champion for the BBC within the media industry and business. She will represent the BBC on relevant external boards to provide expertise on all on-air diversity matters. Leading the BBC’s relationship with Ofcom around creative queries and work closely with industry partners to deliver Diamond - an industry-wide monitoring database system that will measure the diversity profile of the workforce on UK productions, on and off-air.
She added: “The task is indeed daunting, however being awarded the opportunity to help level the playing field for the next generation of diverse talent, makes the obstacles and discrimination I have personally faced throughout my own career all the more worthwhile. I look forward to collaborating with diversity and inclusion industry stakeholders to find new and productive ways to create systemic change.”
Sarpong will report into BBC group managing director Bob Shennan and work closely alongside the BBC’s head of workforce diversity and inclusion and with senior leaders in output, to play a crucial part in the BBC’s ambitious Diversity and Inclusion strategy.
She will also continue with her other commitments while working for the BBC three days a week, and continuing her work as a broadcaster and thought leader on the media’s creative diversity agenda outside this time.
- Read more: Solving diversity beyond the tick boxes
The appointment is initially for two years and was advertised in May this year.
Shennan said: “June brings a wealth of experience, creativity, insight, and leadership to the role. She’s a formidable champion for diversity and inclusion whose ambition matches our own in this important area.”
Diversity campaigner and champion
Since 2010, Sarpong has built a reputation as a leading campaigner and thinker on a wide range of diversity issues. She has:
- Co-founded the Women - Inspiration and Enterprise (WIE) Alliance in 2010, an international conference supporting female excellence and empowerment.
- Co-founded the Decide Act Now (DNA) summit, promoting discussion and innovation.
- Authored two books on diversity issues - Diversify (2017) and The Power of Women (2018).
- Been a passionate advocate for change in the workplace and encourages businesses to break down barriers between different people, stressing the economic benefits of workplaces where different voices are encouraged to work together and to recognise where biases exist.
- Worked as an advocate for greater diversity throughout the media and recently supported International Diversity Day at the UN General Assembly.
The BBC’s diversity targets are ambitious across the board, with the aim of getting 15% BAME staff across the BBC and in leadership roles by 2020.
It is the only broadcaster who routinely and voluntarily publishes its BAME pay gap and figures for social diversity - where around 40% of our employees are from low- and intermediate-income households.
BBC director general Tony Hall said: “I am delighted that June Sarpong is joining the BBC. While we have made significant progress on diversity, we also have to accept that the BBC has much further to go. June’s drive, ambition, and knowhow will help further transform the BBC’s programming to ensure that we truly reflect the public we serve.
“June is an immense talent and an internationally-renowned figure on how to deliver change. June will look at improving the BBC’s on-air talent portrayal and commissioning. She will provide expertise on all on-air diversity matters and serve as an ambassador and champion.
“She will have a wide remit to deliver change, and I have no doubt that with her help and leadership, we will deliver it. I am determined that we have a BBC that continues to speak to and for everyone. June will help us achieve that.”
This appointment builds on the improvements the BBC has made in recent years in improving on and off-air representation.
Earlier this year, board member Tom Ilube took on the chair of the BBC’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group, supported by Paralympic athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson and with external advisors Solomon Elliott, Tanya Motie, Geoff Norcott, Adele Patrick, as well as Sarpong.
The group support and advise the director general and the BBC on how it portrays all of the UK’s communities on-air and represents them in its workforce.
Increasing representation of BAME and women in senior leadership remains a priority for the BBC.
Progress is being made but more needs to be done, particularly at the very highest executive levels.
It has already reached its 2020 targets for BAME staff (15%) at 15.3% and disabled staff (8%) at 10.2%; whilst BAME staff in leadership roles are at 11.5%, up from 10.4%; and women now fill 43.8% of leadership roles at the BBC - up from 42.1%. We have introduced a new target for the BBC Executive Committee and all divisional boards to have two BAME members by the end of 2020.