Three unions are boycotting a scheme that aims to monitor the number of disabled people and other minorities working in the broadcasting industry, because of its failure to release a detailed breakdown showing figures for individual programmes.
Delegates at the TUC disabled workers’ conference in Bournemouth heard that the flaws in Project Diamond meant disabled people were “still likely to be denied access to work” and the ability to “change public perception in a positive way”.
They heard that the refusal of workers in the industry to fill in Project Diamond monitoring forms was heaping pressure on the broadcasting industry over its refusal to release programme-by-programme data.
The monitoring system was created by broadcasters BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Sky through the Creative Diversity Network, and aims to capture the equality data of all those working on programmes they commission.
But the conference also heard that if a disabled character is played on television by a non-disabled actor, that is still counted in Project Diamond statistics showing how many roles are perceived by audiences to be disabled characters.
Natasha Hirst, from NUJ, the journalists’ union, said it was “absolutely disgraceful that that is considered acceptable across the industry”.
Proposing a motion that called on the TUC to demand transparent data and for potential penalties for offending broadcasters from the regulator Ofcom – which was passed unanimously – Hirst said the industry’s failure to release detailed figures meant “we cannot drive through the change and the transformation we need to see in broadcasting”.
The Project Diamond monitoring scheme is currently being boycotted by NUJ, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and the media and entertainment union BECTU, although not by the actors’ union Equity.
Hirst said the boycott has been effective because workers had been refusing to fill in the monitoring forms.
She said: “It is a great example of the power of action the trade union movements can have in creating and influencing change.”
She added: “Disabled people are being denied the opportunity to work by the casting of disabled people in roles we should be filling.
“We need complete transparency from the media companies if Project Diamond is going to have the impact we need it to have. The way it is being done is wrong.”