When Positive Discrimination Can Be Completely Legal


“Is this fake news?” was the message I received through my Facebook page with a screenshot of an advertisement for a training opportunity at a BBC radio station. It clearly stated that the roles were only open to people from Black and Asian backgrounds.

“Surely this can’t be legal? I’m shocked that the BBC can openly discriminate against certain ethnicities,” my friend continued in the message and she’s probably not the only person who thinks that. I assured her that the advertisement wasn’t fake and it was a genuine opportunity for people from Black and Asian backgrounds to apply for a role at the BBC. I knew this because the BBC has offered many schemes like this and have openly stated who the roles were specifically for.

But what I didn’t know was how the BBC was able to do this. We all know positive discrimination is illegal, yet here is one of the UK’s biggest employers and a public service broadcaster which appeared to be doing just that.

After some digging, I found out that the roles were being offered by the BBC through a company called Creative Access. It’s also run by a White British woman called Josie Dobrin so I asked her if what the BBC was doing was legal and how they were able to ‘get away with it’ as it were.

Josie explained that Creative Access is the only organisation in the UK dedicated to recruiting BAME talent in the creative industries. She said:

The young people we support are a proven under-represented group within the creative industries. Figures from the 2011 British Census and Creative Skillset’s 2012 Employment Census showed that the UK was 14% non-white and London’s population was over 40% BAME. Yet BAME representation across the creative industries had fallen to just 5.4%.

The absence of diversity in the creative sector is not only bad for our society but is also bad for business – how can the media reflect society, if society is not reflected in the media?

How can Creative Access legally offer roles just to ethnic minorities?

Creative Access is legally able to offer internships only to UK nationals with a “visible ethnic minority” because it can show that:

  1.  It is offering training opportunities (and not jobs) and;
  2. That it is targeting a group of the population which is proved to be under-represented in the sector.

The 2011 British Census  showed that over 40% of Londoners are non-white and that people from BAME groups represent 13% of the UK population. The Labour Force Survey, October-December 2015 (Office for National Statistics) showed that 10% of the UK workforce and 35% of London’s workforce are from BAME backgrounds.

The 2015 Employment Census  published by Creative Skillset showed that Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority representation across the creative industries sits at just 7% of the total workforce.

What are the benefits of a diverse workforce?

report by McKinsey in January 2018 found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 33 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Moreover, a 2017 Government report showed that the UK economy could benefit from a £24bn-a-year boost if those from BAME backgrounds progressed in work at the same rate as their white counterparts.

Creative Access doesn’t just work with the BBC. It works with a number of companies across all the creative industries like book publishing, theatres, television, music, film and PR & marketing. Josie says:

To date we have placed over 800 interns and supported more than 14,000 young people with employability training including CV support and interview preparation skills.

We will create new role models of high calibre young people who can rise into positions to recruit themselves, drawing on their own networks and progressively increasing the proportion of BAME employment overall. In the longer term this will have a game changing effect on the culture and diversity of the creative industries workforce.



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