Too many of our staff come from a privileged background, BBC admits

Privately-educated BBC staff more than twice the national average Corporation says – and it wants that to change

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Too many BBC staff come from a privileged background one of its senior executives admitted today.

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James Purnell, the BBC’s director of education and radio revealed that the BBC’s own internal findings showed that 17% of all BBC employees went to private school – more than double the national average of 7%.

When it comes to management positions that figure is 24% – a statistic which the Corporation regards as unacceptable and wants to change.

Of all its staff, 60% come from a family where their parents worked in management professions – twice the national average.

Said Purnell: “So this year for the first time we asked three questions. So we asked: did your parents go to university, did you go to state school, and what was their professional background.

“So in terms of private schools, 17% of the BBC went to private school, compared to 7% national average. Management is 24%. In terms of occupation, which actually if you are going to pick one, parents occupation, is the most predictive, then 60% of all staff had parents who were managerial or professional occupation of some kind, which is twice the national average.”

Speaking at the Royal Television Society’s biannual convention in Cambridge, Purnell said that the BBC was looking to change this and was considering having quotas on the socio economic make up of its staff.

“We are now doing anonymised recruitment so you take off name and you take off your degree.

“We have given ourselves targets. We don’t have targets for socioeconomics but we are thinking about it.

“Until we have data across the industry I think it’s quite hard to know what good is. We would love to have a target, we would be very happy to do that, it’s just what it would be [that has to be decided].”

Purnell, who went to private school and Oxford University himself, admitted that he was himself “definitely privileged”.

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His remarks chime with comments made yesterday by Ofcom chief executive Sharon White who said that in future diversity targets needed to pay much closer attention to class distinctions not just race, gender or disability.