THE BBC is to set a target for recruiting more working class employees as part of a diversity shake-up under its new director general.
Bosses wants staff to declare their social background following criticism the Corporation is stuffed with posh people who went to private school.
They will be quizzed on their education, if they were eligible for free school meals and what jobs their parents had when they were growing up.
The results will be used to set a “meaningful target”, which aims to give more people from working class backgrounds opportunities within the BBC.
Figures from the BBC’s most recent annual report showed that – of staff who responded – 61 per cent came from a family where the main breadwinner was a professional or senior manager.
Just 26 per cent had manual workers as parents.
I firmly believe that at this time you’ll rarely hear or see anyone like me on BBC TV or network radio. This has to change.
Mike Sweeney, BBC Radio Manchester
The broadcaster has been accused of employing staff from the same social backgrounds, resulting in an out-of-touch workforce obsessed with metropolitan issues.
One radio presenter, who said he worked in the “real world” before joining the BBC, told bosses that the corporation felt like a “like a gated community”.
Mike Sweeney, a veteran DJ on BBC Radio Manchester said: “I’m from an impoverished, northern, working class, Irish Catholic background.
“I left school in 1962 with no qualifications and worked in the ‘real world’ as an engineering fitter, coal miner, docker, van driver,” said Sweeney, who also sang in punk band The Salford Jets.
He spent 33 years in commercial radio before joining the BBC seven years ago. “In the commercial radio world, my background was a huge positive.
“But I feel that the BBC can seem like a gated community for the privileged.
“I firmly believe that at this time you’ll rarely hear or see anyone like me on BBC TV or network radio. This has to change,”
The class target is part of a raft of measures included in the BBC’s new Diversity and Inclusion plan.
By January next year, 95 per cent of BBC employees must have completed mandatory unconscious bias training, which is meant to tackle racism.
The BBC will also begin counting the number of non-binary people it employs.
And it will arm staff with an “inclusion toolkit” of resources “to tackle non-inclusive behaviours”.
Employees will also be taught “how to embed inclusivity into our day-to-day work and management practices, including a framework for anti-racism.”
The corporation aims to become “the industry gold standard for workplace diversity and inclusion”.
New director general Tim Davie said: “We must, from top to bottom, represent the audiences we serve.
“We have made some big improvements, but we want and need to go further.
“This plan will ensure we are a modern, progressive, welcoming organisation where our staff are supported to deliver outstanding creative work and background is no barrier.”
Mr Davie has said within five years the BBC workforce must be 50 per cent women, 20 per cent ethnic minority and 12 per cent disabled.
Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, warned the BBC last year that it needed to broaden its outlook.
He said: “By this, I don’t just mean getting authentic and diverse voices on and off screen, although this is important, but also making sure there is genuine diversity of thought and experience.”
The mandatory requirement for unconscious bias training it likely to raise eyebrows as many experts consider it to be useless or even harmful.
Civil servants no longer go on the controversial courses after studies showed they do not reduce discrimination.
The Cabinet Office say: “A strong body of evidence has emerged that shows that such training has no sustained impact on behaviour and may even be counter-productive.
“Instructions to suppress stereotypes may not only activate and reinforce unhelpful stereotypes, they may provoke negative reactions and actually make people exacerbate their biases.”