The Challenge

As part of its charter commitment the BBC is required to place diversity at its heart and focus on catering to under-served audiences, including Black, Asian and Minority ethnic BAME viewers. BBC programming over indexes against particular audiences, predominately white in ethnicity, older in age and of a higher socio-economic grade. The challenge was to give content guidance so the BBC can better cater for BAME.

Semiotic Role

The role for semiotics was an ambitious one: “to identify the levers and drivers for content success with BAME audiences” and to be actionable, engaging and inspiring to a range of stakeholders. The semiotics entailed a wide literature review of cultural studies and identity politics, history of black and brown peoples in the UK. We reviewed 20 over and under indexing shows within the BBC portfolio and examined a plethora of web and mobile content. We also convened super groups to consult with performance poets and hip-hop pundits.


The semiotics report provided a toolkit of content guidance for commissioners and content makers. It explained the trajectory of change in the British identities of BAME peoples in the UK. It set out the pitfalls and vagaries of representation of non-white people in the media. The findings drilled down Content Levers into 8 Drivers (from Striving to Swagger) to be leveraged and 6 Dampeners (from Exclusionary Codes to Tokenism) of BBC to be avoided by content producers when creating mainstream content.