A new UK survey focused on people from ethnic minority backgrounds shows the media industry is perceived as "cut-throat" and one of the hardest to break into.

The Race for Opportunity campaign, part of the Business in the Community charity, surveyed 1,469 people from a range of backgrounds (the largest groups included Indian, white British, white mixed race, Pakistani, black Caribbean/other black; 65 per cent were born in the UK) and asked them which of eight major professions (politics, armed forces, police, medicine, banking/finance, legal/law, education and media) interested them, and which were perceived as the hardest to get into.

Over a third of respondents (31 per cent), including white Britons, said the media industry was a difficult profession in which to find employment. Law and banking/finance scored 22 and 24 per cent, respectively.

A third were not interested in the media as a career, but the researchers added that results showed that white Britons were "markedly less interested" in a media career than Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) respondents. Thirty-four per cent perceived the media as "cut throat".

"The next generation of bankers, medics, lawyers, teachers and journalists will struggle to have a fairer ethnic mix than the current one," the 'Aspiration and Frustration' report claims.

The report states that "most worringly", there was a clear shortage of role models in many industries. While this was most marked in banking and journalism, around a fifth said there were no inspirational figures in journalism:

"Overall, there is a strong impression that the shortage of BAME role models that people can name, combined with a lack of visibility of prominent figures from an ethnic minority background in professions such as banking, law and the media, is acting as a subtle deterrent to people from these groups."

More than a fifth said there was little entry-level guidance for getting into the media. "On the surface this seems prima facie evidence of the 'old boys network' or 'old school tie' syndrome that enables friends and family to take advantage of connections and opaque procedures for entry that are not available or clear to everyone," it says.

"It is no coincidence that this phenomenon is most closely associated with white middle class Britons gaining access to careers in banking, law, politics and the media through nepotism and connections. Indeed fewer white Britons in our survey saw problems with entry-level information."

The report also examined the media's portrayal of the topic: "The debate over discrimination, especially in the media, is often seen through a prism of Black and Asian issues, whether due to high profile murders in the case of one group, or terrorist fundamentalism in the case of the other".

The results from the survey show there is still "much work to be done," said Sandra Kerr, national campaign director of Race for Opportunity. The findings should be "a call to action for politicians, policy makers, employers and educators to look harder at how they can ensure that these professions are seen as truly equal opportunity employers," she said.

"The challenge is to ensure that for ethnic minority candidates the door to the city law firm is as open as the call centre, and that being a public leader is as normal as sitting behind a supermarket till."

To find out more information about the research, its methodology and the comparison with other sectors, follow this link, where the report can be downloaded. Reuters has a report on the survey at this link.

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