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50:50 The Equality Project at The BBC

50:50 The Equality Project is committed to inspiring and supporting the BBC and organisations around the globe to consistently create journalism and media content that fairly represents our world.

The initiative, born in the BBC’s London newsroom, uses a methodology that is rooted in data, creativity, practicality and passion to fundamentally shift representation within the media.

50:50 is a voluntary, self-monitoring system designed to fit into existing workflows. It is simple and flexible, with a methodology founded on three core principles. 

Graphic representation of the three core 50:50 principles: We collect data to effect change, Measure what you control, Never compromise on quality. Under this is the short version: count, share, change

Collect data to drive change

Editorial and production teams monitor their own content and use that data to set benchmarks and track progress. Data is gathered at the time of production to increase engagement and encourage teams to make 50:50 part of their regular editorial conversations. Teams then share monthly data with the rest of the BBC in a spirit of positive competition and collaboration.

Measure what you control

We only count the contributors that we control. In news content, we do not count people who are integral to the news stories of the day. For example, we do not count the Prime Minister when giving a speech or the only eyewitness to a bomb. We cannot tell the stories without these people, and we have no control over who they are. Everyone else counts – reporters, analysts, academics, experts, case studies and anyone who appears in our original journalism and features. If a contributor appears multiple times in a single programme or piece, they will only count once. Everyone who does count, counts as one.

No compromise on quality

The best contributor is always used, regardless of their impact on a team’s 50:50 numbers. Editorial excellence is always the priority. The 50:50 Project aims to help content-makers discover new voices to better reflect the audiences they serve.

Graphic representation of the three 50:50 workflow principles: Count: contributors on content, Share: data to inform decisions, Change: culture to enrich output

COUNT contributors in content

Teams monitor the numbers of contributors in their content to set benchmarks for their chosen diversity measures. They then count regularly as their content is produced to track their progress against the benchmarks. The data is based on the perception of the person counting as to what the audience would see, read or hear.

SHARE data to inform decisions

Teams continually share and discuss their 50:50 data to inform regular editorial decisions. They aim to reach targets (e.g. 50% women contributors) over a period of time, usually a month.

CHANGE culture to enrich output

The longer teams monitor and share data regularly, the more likely they are to create cultural change. 50:50 has enabled teams to identify topic areas where women or other diversities are under-represented, such as science or sport. It has also given content-makers further encouragement to think differently about the stories they choose to tell, and to continually seek new voices and different perspectives to enrich their output.

Tim DavieBBC Director-General

The BBC’s role in national life could hardly have been clearer during the past twelve months. Our teams have worked tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 crisis to keep the country informed, educated and entertained. But to truly succeed in our mission, it is absolutely vital that the BBC reflects the public it serves.

This is the challenge at the heart of the 50:50 Project. It began four years ago as a simple idea to measure and increase representation of women on one BBC news programme. Since then it has been taken up right across the BBC, not just in our news output but by content teams on all our platforms.

50:50 gives us the opportunity to deliver real and sustained change. This report shows that 70% of teams submitting data in March reached at least 50% women in their output – an increase of 34% on where they began. And, for the first time, no team featured fewer than 40% women after three years of monitoring, pointing to a longer-term cultural shift.

Photo of BBC World production team filming on the streets during the coronavirus pandemic, all are wearing facemasks.
"Our teams have worked tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 crisis to keep the country informed, educated and entertained."

The 50:50 Project is not only helping to drive progress at the BBC, but also across a global network of more than 100 partners in 26 countries. In response to our challenge to feature 50% women contributors in their content in March, 50% succeeded – compared to 31% when they first joined.

Our ambition is to go further. This year BBC teams were invited to use 50:50’s core principles to increase disability and ethnicity representation. More than 220 joined up, with half of those monitoring since October already seeing an improvement.

I want to thank every champion, contributor and creator involved in the 50:50 journey. We have a long way to go before we reach equity in disability, ethnicity and gender representation, but we are demonstrating that more diverse content is possible. Together we can ensure that the media we all consume truly represents the world we live in.

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