Support for the creative economy

Written evidence submitted by Creative Access [SCE 058]

The media cannot reflect society if society in not reflected in the media

Creative Access is delighted to have the opportunity to submit evidence to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee’s Inquiry into Support for the Creative Economy.

Our evidence is focused specifically on the question of skills and the pool of talent from which our creative sector currently recruits. There is a marked lack of ethnic diversity in the creative sector’s recruitment processes, which remains a significant problem throughout the media and creative industries


The riots in London in the summer of 2011 were the tipping point. Watching hours of white middle class commentators failing to explain the confusion and chaos on our streets offered little insight to the viewer; and embarrassment to the media industry.

It is widely acknowledged that there is a huge under-representation of people from black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME) working in the media and creative industries. But the events of summer 2011 have provided a catalyst for action. Action is needed on the demand side-to open up access to the media industries. It is also needed on the supply-side-to encourage and recruit high quality Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates.

Building a creative industry that is more representative and more insightful regarding the needs and wishes of the whole population, is vital both for the economic viability of the sector itself and for the wider health of our society.

About Creative Access

Creative Access is a charity [1] established in 2012 which aims to provide opportunities for paid, year-long internships in the creative industries for talented young people from black and Asian backgrounds, with a view to improving their chances of securing full-time jobs and, in the longer term, increasing diversity and addressing the current imbalance in the sector.

Since the launch of Creative Access in April this year we have secured over 70 placements with media companies, with our first interns starting this autumn. The scheme is already working for both the young people concerned and our industries. Some comments from our very first group of trainees and the employers working with us are attached at appendix 2.

We know the Creative Access approach can deliver. What we need now is for the government to seize the opportunity and support us so that we can expand the initiative and sustain that delivery. For the benefit of the young people concerned, for the creative sector and for society as a whole.

Why diversity remains a problem for the media and creative industries

The diversity of Britain’s arts and culture is not reflected in the representation of the creative sector. Despite over 30% of London’s working age population being from BAME backgrounds, less than 6% of the creative industries workforce is BAME [2] .

At leadership levels the proportion of people from non-white backgrounds falls to as low as 3%. The pattern is repeated across the individual creative sectors with just 5% of the workforce in television, 5% in radio and 3% in publishing coming from BAME backgrounds. This is despite many years of efforts by individuals and organisations designed to improve ethnic diversity within the industry.

Diversity is economically important for the creative industries


If this problem is not tackled, in the long run it is the creative sector that will lose out: in not recruiting black and Asian workers it is limiting its labour resource and it will be unable to understand and sell back to significant proportion of the of the UK population that is non white.

The proportion of graduates from London Universities from BAME backgrounds is growing every year [3] :

There is a vast pool of talent out there and the creative sector is currently failing to tap into it. It is widely recognized that diversity enhances the creativity within an organization. From a creative company or organisation’s perspective it makes both commercial and ethical sense: if you want your production to link to your audiences then your audiences have to be part of the production.

Why the problem persists

From Creative Access’ research among media companies and young people looking to find ways into creative positions, it is clear that there are many reasons why access to the creative industries for young people from ethnic minority backgrounds is poor.

These include: lack of awareness of the opportunities available; the appearance of a closed shop based on networks of personal contacts, mentors and role models; and the system of "expenses only" internship placements for extended periods. In some cases these factors may lead to a lack of self confidence, which could be exacerbated if the young person is the first person in the family to attend college or university.

What is particularly clear is that there is no single place for BAME young people to look for training and employment opportunities in the creative industries and that is where Creative Access comes in.

How Creative Access works

Creative Access is designed to match up talent with opportunities. On the demand side, we are creating an extensive network of partner companies in film, music, publishing, public relations (PR), journalism and more. A list of our current partners is attached as appendix 1. It includes broadcasters (including ITV, Sky, Channel 4 and N BCU), television producers (Pact and its member companies), the music industry (BPI and Sony), Publishing (Random House and Harper Collins); Newspapers (The Times) ; Theatre (ATG and Stage 1) and many more .

In each case, the media company is asked to offer a 6 to 12 month paid work placement and to contribute at least 50% towards a salary based on a minimum of the London Living wage (approx £15,000 per year). As a charity Creative Access raises funds to contribute the remaining 50%. Every placement is given a senior mentor for the duration of their internship and participates in a training programme both prior to and during their internship.

On the supply side, we are widening the pool of talent by actively reaching out and recruiting the very best candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds [4] . We recruit through student unions and societies, university careers services, specialist colleges and via job centres. For recruitment and training services Creative Access work is in partnership with two specialist charities SEO London [5] and New Deal of the Mind [6] , two organisations with many years of experience in recruitment and training services among the communities we are reaching out to.

Our ambition

Creative Access aims to introduce 250 high quality candidates (graduate or equivalent standard) per year (for the next 3 years) into the Media industries from the black and Asian communities. By facilitating access for BAME graduates, in this way our ambition is to change the cultural mix in our media industries so that the media can better reflect society as a whole.

Evidence from other similar schemes suggests that a over 70% of those taking part on work placements go on to find full time work either with the company itself or elsewhere in the same sector. We hope the changes we are trying to bring about, will create their own sustainability, with those who succeed in securing jobs in the sector helping in turn to bring others from under-represented communities in alongside them.

How Government and parliament can help

With the employing firms meeting half the cost of each person they take on, we have the private sector support. We are working to secure matching funding through a number of other private and charitable routes.

But we are also looking to involve the Government financially to help us meet our ambitious plans and bring about the scale of change that's clearly necessary, and give Creative Access the stamp of official approval and ensure that it is taken seriously at the highest levels in the media.

Therefore any recommendations the Committee can make to encourage the government and the creative industries more widely to take seriously the huge under-representation of people from BAME backgrounds and support initiatives like Creative Access will bring a valuable boost-both to the young people we are helping and to the economic and cultural health of the creative industries overall.

November 2012

Appendix 1

Our partner companies include:


Big Talk



ITV Studios



The Rights House

Random House

Sony Pictures

United Agents



Tiger Aspect

All 3 Media

Shed Media

Wall to Wall

Hat Trick Productions



Keo Films


OMP plc


Cherry Red


Fresh One

Best Before Records

Channel 4

Two Four

The Times


Stage One

Independent Talent

Ambassadors Theatre Group

Appendix 2

Dominic Kay, an intern at Sky-"I have had the amazing opportunity to take part in a unique graduate scheme at Sky News. It is a wonderful placement and is proving to be an informative and enjoyable experience, where I am always on the go and learning a lot. I think often within Britain the workforce of big organisations and corporations do not accurately represent our demographic and Creative Access crucially contributes to the rectification of this imbalance."

Helen Efrange, an intern at United Agents-"Through Creative Access, I’m now working as an assistant to a literary agent at United Agents. Most days I pinch myself because I am getting paid to do what I love, which is essentially to read. I am certain that I would not be where I am without the opportunity provided by Creative Access. There is an astonishing lack of diversity within the publishing industry. To be able to enter the world of publishing one has to be prepared to work unpaid for months on end and often, a foot in the door is dependent on who you know. This set up leaves many ethnic minorities out in the cold.

I am the only (and maybe first) minority face within the book department, but hopefully I will not be the last. I not only think this scheme is helpful, but a requirement within the industry. It’s the beginning of a path that will hopefully begin to change the face of publishing as it most certainly has changed things for me. A year spent working here will definitely put me where I need to be in order to successfully advance within this sector." 

Matthew Vaughan, Film Director-"There’s such a culture of ‘friends and family’ in the movie world and I know how important it is to be given a break. Creative Access found us a shortlist of people who all had a passion for film-making, but little or no experience. The intern we chose has impressed everyone on the crew of Kick-Ass 2 and I can see a bright future ahead of him in the film industry."

Victoria Barnsley OBE, CEO, Harper Collins-"For me, one of the key strengths of

Creative Access comes from working together with other employers across the creative

industries. This has got to be the way ahead, helping us to up our game creatively, appeal to a broader audience and thereby ensure continuing healthy growth."

[1] Charity R egistration No. 1146822

[2]   2010 Creative Media Workforce Survey

[3] Source: HESA, June 2012

[4] Creative Access is a strategic initiative which complies with its obligations under the Equality Act 2010

[5] www.seo-

[6] www.creativesociety.

Prepared 17th November 2012