Non-profit organisation Media Diversified today launched a directory of experts from ethnic minorities with the aim of promoting a wider range of voices in the media.
The directory features professionals in fields from academia to youth culture, which news organisations can hire to comment on stories and better represent their audiences.
"It's about disrupting that landscape of male, stale and pale commentaries in the mainstream media," Samantha Asumadu, a documentary maker and founder of Media Diversified, told Journalism.co.uk, referencing current affairs shows like Newsnight and Question Time.
"We want to get to the stage where that's not the norm anymore."
According to census data from 2012, 14 per cent of the UK population identifies as being black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) but a Creative Skillset census of the same year put BAME representation in "creative media industries" at just 5.4 percent.
That's a nation-wide proportion of one in six compared to an industry representation of one in 20, not taking into account the number of BAME individuals with back-room roles in the business.
Users can visit the directory and search for experts for commentary on news stories, with options to narrow the search based on location, area of expertise, age, gender or experience in print, radio or video platforms.
Non-subscribers can browse the directory and read short biographies of registered experts, while paid subscribers will have access to contact details and examples of previous work in various formats.
At present, the number of experts is "just reaching 150" said Asumadu, but is growing by the day as the Media Diversified team reach out to people via email on Twitter and check their credentials before adding them to the directory.
Screenshot from mediadiversified.org
"When the broadcaster signs up to the directory we make a fanfare and put them on the website as what they're doing is attempting to make an effort to diversify the media and it's a long time coming."
Subscribers can choose to have a project manager on call to find media expert commentators 24 hours a day.
"We've had a few broadcasters beta testing it," said Asumadu, "Sky News have been using it and BBC Woman's Hour, who we've been working with off and on for a year. Also BBC Africa and Newsnight."
Tami Hoffman, interviews editor for Sky News, said: "News channels have become increasingly aware of the importance of hearing from a diverse range of contributors.
"There have been visible improvements in getting more women onto news programmes, but more work needs to be done to cover other types of diversity. Having a directory of experts is a valuable tool in alerting producers to a wider pool of contributors.”
Asumadu put the blame for a ubiquity of "whiteness" in the the mainstream media on "nepotism and unconscious bias", where people "recruit in [their] own model", but this often leaves large segments of society without a voice in the media.
"You've got a double bind with women of colour [in particular] with racism and sexism," she said, "but then with Muslim women on top of that you've got racism, sexism and Islamophobia. So it can be very difficult, visibly presenting Muslim women on the TV."
With the directory, and the Media Diversified project on the whole, Asumadu and her colleagues are hoping to "break into this privileged arena that has been dominated by white, male, middle class people".
"We're willing to challenge regardless of whatever media it is: the Guardian, the Telegraph, Channel 4," she said.
"Or if a woman or a man we think in some way has damaged or marginalised or potentially threatened the well-being of people of colour by using their influence in the media then we tackle that. From the Evening Standard to the Times to the Guardian."
Update: Information on the subscription pricing for the directory has been removed from this article as Media Diversified has changed its approach, now serving and charging news organisations on a case-by-case basis.
Free daily newsletter
- Have your say in the new inquiry on the future of journalism
- NCTJ seeks sponsors to support Journalism Diversity Fund amid growing demand
- How to report LGBT+ stories with confidence
- How to make news more engaging for younger audiences
- US nonprofit The 19th wants to report on women and policies from a gender viewpoint