Channel 4's Dan Brooke: media companies are failing us with poor representation of disabled people

Dan Brooke, chief marketing and communications officer at Channel 4, has criticised what he said was the "virtually invisible" status of disabled people on TV and across other media.

Dan Brooke
Dan Brooke

A recent Ofcom report on diversity in the UK TV industry found that disabled people were one of the most underrepresented groups.

Across the five main UK broadcasters – the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky – only 3% of employees are disabled. This compares to 18% of the total UK population.

Brooke, who is the government’s disability champion for the media sector, said: "When you flick through TV channels, glance at a billboard or scroll through your social media it’s almost impossible to spot a disabled person.

"Disabled people make up nearly a fifth of the UK population but when it comes to the media they are virtually invisible. There are pockets of good practice but put quite simply, things have to improve across all sectors.

"For a broadcaster having a workforce that genuinely reflects its audience is not just the right thing to do, it’s the right business thing to do, for all of our futures. Ultimately broadcasters and audiences will lose out if there is a huge section of the population not involved in shaping the stories we tell."

11% of Channel 4’s employees are disabled – still below the national average, but ahead of the other major broadcasters.

Its initiatives to improve the representation of disabled people include the Diversity in Advertising Award, which this year was re-awarded to Lloyds Bank and Adam & Eve/DDB after the initial winners, Volvo and Grey, withdrew from the competition.

Minister for disabled people, health and work, Sarah Newton, said: "Broadcasters should represent their diverse audiences, not only as employers but also through improving representation in the media.

"As a government champion for disability, Channel 4 is leading the way in this area, and I encourage other broadcasters to follow their example."