Creative industries join £12m drive to recruit minorities

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The Independent Online

Five years after the BBC was described as "hideously white" by its then director general Greg Dyke, major creative industries from advertising to the music business are admitting they have a problem too.

Advertising executives have condemned their own recruitment of non-white staff as "pitiful", and new statistics show that only 4 per cent of staff in the UK's £5bn music industry are from ethnic minorities.

Now both industries will take part in a £12m scheme to promote excellence in cultural leadership, which was launched by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, yesterday, in front of an audience of arts and creative industry leaders including Sir Christopher Frayling, the chairman of the Arts Council. The inclusion of the profit-making creative industries in the training programme is a first.

They have previously been regarded as capable of taking care of themselves, leaving government funds for the not-for-profit cultural sector. But David Kershaw, a founding partner of the advertising agency M&C Saatchi, said Britain's £7bn share of the global advertising market was in jeopardy. "There's no question as an industry we punch well above our weight," he said. "But there's a serious danger that this global success is under threat."

Advertising agencies recruited from a "very small number of elite universities and a handful of specialist art schools", and had a "pitiful" 7 per cent of non-white staff - though this equalled the percentage of ethnic minorities in the working population as a whole.

Yet against stiff competition from countries such as Brazil, India and Thailand, more needed to be done in terms of staffing to help the industry understand its potential audiences, he said.

"I wouldn't claim any moral purpose. I'm an ad man after all, but we will lose our competitive edge if we don't," he added.

Eric Nicoli, the chairman of EMI, said: "Today's leaders have a responsibility to make the best even better and to identify the leaders of tomorrow and equip them with the right skills."

He welcomed the Government's help, announced in the Budget last year, and urged colleagues to take part in the programme.

It will include mentoring, specialised intensive courses and networking opportunities organised by the Arts Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. Some training will be carried out by the Clore leadership programme.

Mr Brown said yesterday: "I'm really grateful that you can help me get a rather more modest 2.5 per cent growth for the economy. What we are talking about is something that is not at the margins, but in the mainstream. It is not a sideshow, it is right at the centre - not just of a modern culture and a modern society, but of a modern economy."

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