Irish film and TV industry needs more data on gender and diversity, report finds

Regulator needs statutory support to improve equality and inclusion, researchers say

Data on diversity in the Irish film and television workforce does not exist, researchers found. Photograph: iStock

Data on diversity in the Irish film and television workforce does not exist, researchers found. Photograph: iStock

 

The broadcasting regulator must be given the statutory backing and resources to improve the Irish film and television industry’s track record on gender equality and diversity, a research report funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has urged.

The researchers found there was a “gap in knowledge” when it came to assessing whether recent equality, diversity and inclusion policies were helping improve access to the industry.

The call comes as the functions of the BAI are set to be transferred to the proposed Media Commission, which will also regulate some aspects of video-on-demand and social media companies based in the State for the first time.

Since 2015, State development agency Screen Ireland, the BAI and RTÉ have all made explicit changes to their gender equality and diversity policies.

But while the researchers said Screen Ireland’s initiatives, the first to be introduced, “did have an impact” on the gender make-up of funding recipients – with the percentage of female writers, directors and producers increasing since 2017 – there remained “a number of as yet unresolved issues”, including lower budgets for female-driven screen projects.

In general, there is “no clear analysis available” on how the various measures adopted by Irish funders of screen content “have been received or applied on the ground” in the film and television industry, they concluded.

“Data on diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, class or disabilities in the Irish media workforce does not currently exist.”

Resourcing diversity

Some 27 people – including people in senior leadership positions at RTÉ, TG4, Virgin Media Television, Screen Ireland, Screen Producers Ireland and several independent production companies – were interviewed for the research, which was carried out by Dr Anne O’Brien of Maynooth University; Dr Susan Liddy of MIC, University of Limerick; and Dr Páraic Kerrigan of University College Dublin.

“We see how increasingly diverse Irish society is and the question you have to ask yourself is if the screen industry is resourcing that diversity,” said Dr Liddy.

“Clearly, we are not and there are people being excluded across the board.”

The evidence to date on gender suggests that “change is fragile, rather than being securely embedded in the industry”.

The researchers also said more work needed to be done to create a pipeline of talent and improve links to training and education.

A State body should have a role in funding paid internships at production companies in order to improve access to the industry for working-class people, migrants and other groups, Dr Liddy added.

“At the moment, you likely need to do an internship to get in the door of a production company. The chances are that it won’t be paid. The chances are that it won’t even be advertised,” she said.

Behind the scenes

Dr O’Brien said diversity on screen was only created “in an authentic and sustainable manner” when there was diversity behind the scenes.

While the work the BAI had done to date was welcome, it was not currently equipped to bring about national change, she said.

“ To that end, our key recommendation is that statutory support and resources are provided to the regulator to help to weave equality, diversity and inclusion into the fabric of national broadcasting legislation, policy and implementation practices.”

BAI deputy chief executive Celene Craig welcomed the publication of the research and said diversity, equality and inclusion in the media was “a critical area of focus” for the organisation, which as well as regulating broadcasters also provides funding to producers through the Sound & Vision scheme.

“This report will further inform our approach and, as we transition to the establishment of the Media Commission, contribute to discussions and the development of policy to strengthen the role of regulation in this area.”

Ms Craig said the BAI would work with other industry bodies to develop “an appropriate data-collection framework”.