The TV and radio industries face a drain of diverse talent in the wake of the pandemic, according to research by Ofcom.
The broadcasting watchdog said outlets are struggling to retain talent as the UK emerges from lockdown, with more women in particular leaving the sector than joining.
Data from its five-year look at diversity and equal opportunities suggests representation of women in the workforce had remained largely consistent since 2017/18.
However, in 2020/21, for both TV and radio, the proportion of female leavers was higher than the proportion of female joiners.
Reasons for the change highlighted in the report include the coronavirus pandemic and its “disproportionate effect” on groups such as working mothers.
In response, Ofcom is calling on the UK broadcasters to focus on retaining and progressing senior, diverse talent.
It highlighted a lack of diverse talent among top decision-makers, with disabled people making up only 6% of senior managers.
Vikki Cook, Ofcom’s director of broadcasting policy, said: “Broadcasters have made progress hiring a wider range of talent.
“For example, there are twice as many people working in radio from minority-ethnic backgrounds as there were three years ago.
“But for the first time, more people are leaving the industry than joining, particularly women, while disabled people remain significantly underrepresented. And because companies have focused on entry-level recruitment, there still isn’t enough diverse talent in senior roles.
“So, we’re calling on broadcasters to slow the revolving door and focus on retaining and progressing talented people from all walks of life.”
James Taylor, director of strategy at disability charity Scope, said: “These are stark findings from Ofcom.
“Disabled people have been woefully underrepresented in the broadcasting industry for many, many years.
“Despite one if five of us in the UK being disabled, both TV and Radio are reporting industry-wide representation at 7%.
“Disabled people make up only 6% of senior managers.
“If we are to have equality in this country, we need to get representation, on and off screen, right.
“Not enough of us even know a disabled person, so seeing disabled people on screen and working with more disabled people will only help improve understanding and break down barriers.
“We know the industry has been trying to reverse this trend for some time, but news that things might get worse for years to come should act as a catalyst for change.”