Has GB News Got it Right?

Love or loathe GB News, it has done really well to reach news feed figures of over three million, a quarter the BBC currently achieves.  It fills a gap that the BBC, ITV or SKY have not that readily been able to satisfy over the years.  GB News and Talk TV are both Daily Mirror style broadcasters and they do  really well in the UK.

I watch both GB News and Talk TV now and then and recognise that their mesmerising style has a way of drawing me in.  I don’t always agree with their charm but I do like the cut of their programming.

As a professional working in the Equalities, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) industry however I was very disappointed with a recent GB News headline – Local councils spend millions on ‘woke’ job roles despite fears of being on brink of bankruptcy.” Gosh I thought, what’s that all about? The full article can be read here.

GB News apparently had undertaken a nationwide trawl of local authorities and discovered how many equality officers there were and how much they got paid.  Naturally they concluded that there were far too many officers and that they were all paid too much.  Thrown into the mix was the “bankruptcy” of the UK’s largest local authority and bingo, they got their news headline.  Fold in a few more quotes and the story just got bigger with a “wasting public money” angle. Add even further to the fusion, a local government leader explaining how important it is to tackle inequality and then demonstrate how they spend money on forcing (that’s me paraphrasing badly, but you get the point) 1,300 members of staff to attend an “unconscious bias course”.  Game, set and match.

I have some sympathy for the GB News article.  Perhaps there are too many equality officers.  But that is because far too often organisations give lip service to this by directing budgets into the general direction of equalities without caring too much about what happens afterwards.  They tick a box and move on. I speak to equality officers all the time and they often share common experiences. One thing is certain, done correctly, they have a massive task to undertake.

I do agree however that the impact made by equality officers can be inconsistent.  It’s almost as though local authorities appoint people into these roles and then just leave them to flounder, with no clear guidance as to what they need to do, how to measure the impact of their work and with a huge remit of overseeing new processes and implementing new initiatives.  Often they are  standalone roles with little, or no budget or staff resources, to support their work.  How would you cope in such circumstances I wonder?

Our roles are akin to internal auditors, quality assurance teams, public relations, HR, recruitment and retention, policy development and legal compliance – all rolled into one.  Our reach as you can imagine extends across every aspect of an organisation and we don’t always get the recognition and support we need. Believe me, I connect with other EDI professionals every day and this is a common theme. Despite this we are still not paid as well as GB news presenters!

As the director of embraceEDI I can say that our whole organisational purpose is about addressing such challenges – raising standards, impact and consistency.  With this in mind I am pleased to say that we will shortly be launching a universal equalities standard to support the profession.

Dear GB News, the sad reality is that discrimination does exist – race discrimination, gender discrimination, disability discrimination, age discrimination, sexuality discrimination and more.    Reminding staff of this through “training” and reminding them that this type of discrimination is illegal may not be a bad thing.  Just take a look at the number of high-profile cases we see daily on our TV screens.  These organisations sometimes get things wrong and could do with some professional advice and guidance.  No organisation is immune – the police, sports sector, public and private sector, and more.

I am pleased to say that GB News does have a good level of diversity in its programming and that’s great news.  However not every organisation can say the same for their leadership teams. Need I say more?