Promoting diversity is a journey, not a tick box exercise

Virgin Media Television host discussion about challenges and opportunities within diversity, equity, and inclusion

27th October 2021:


As a member of the Broadcasting Sustainability Network, Virgin Media Television this month hosted a Network event focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in broadcasting.  Moderated by Catherine Smith-McKiernan, of Sustainability Works and with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), the discussion focused on the importance of DEI and how the issues are being addressed by Virgin Media Television, both in programming and in the workplace.


The Broadcasting Sustainability Network was established by the BAI in 2019 to foster and support sustainability in broadcasting, instigating positive action across society, and to be a forum for collaboration and partnerships. The Network has over 40 members across the broadcasting sector, including Virgin Media Television.


As a peer-to-peer event, the discussion allowed for others within the broadcast industry to collaborate and learn from each other, supporting best practice across the sector. “People can often struggle to engage with a DEI strategy, but something as simple as asking them to think of a time when they felt they didn’t belong, can really help people to recognise its importance,” says Victoria Whitehouse, Global Director, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Liberty Global.


“Some people feel they need permission to act on diversity issues, so it’s important to make sure you allow them to learn from their mistakes, and continue to engage with them in open, even challenging conversations which allow for greater understanding of the strategy and its goals.”


When asked about the benefits of setting targets or quotas around DEI, Victoria stated that it’s not just about targets, it’s about giving something that people can use to make the most inclusive decisions ‘Equity Sequencing’ which provides a framework of questions such as ‘Who is in the room? Who isn’t in the room? Who is this designed for?’ to pose at each level of the decision-making process to combat unconscious bias.


“It’s important that you have those tools and others such as a diverse interviewing panel, to combat bias when onboarding, but it’s equally important to ensure you attract diverse applicants” said Alison Hodgson, Vice President of People, Virgin Media Ireland.


“This can involve recruiting from a variety of institutions, and even something as simple as the words we use on job descriptions. Did you know that women are more likely to apply for jobs with descriptions that use the word ‘partner’ rather than ‘stakeholder’?” she added.


As a broadcasting business, this inclusive hiring process leads to greater diversity both on screen and behind the camera, which is a priority for Anthony Nilan, Entertainment and Promotions Lead, Virgin Media Television.


Anthony says “As story tellers, be it news or fiction, we want to reflect Ireland and to ensure that people across Ireland are seeing themselves represented in our content, so they know that they belong.


“Broadcasters will only benefit from telling different stories. Not simply because they are diverse, but because they have such interesting perspectives to add to conversations. Take Gogglebox, for example, seeing a family of migrants react to ‘The Late Late Show’ adds so much to our enjoyment of the programme because it provides a totally fresh viewpoint.”


Looking to the future of broadcasting, and the role diversity plays within that, Anthony said “The relationship people have with television has changed, and to stay relevant, we need to keep up with our audience. People rarely notice when they are represented, but when you are not it is blindingly obvious. As we move forward, Virgin Media Television is aiming to ensure that our diversity becomes a natural part of our content, ensuring that diverse groups no longer have to actively seek out representation.”