Head of BT Sport
BT Sport won the IABM Award for the Most Inclusive Company in December 2021. The sports broadcaster collected the award in recognition of a wide range of action across its operation to promote Diversity and Inclusion – see the judges’ summary of its achievements here. We followed up with BT Sport COO*, Jamie Hindhaugh, to uncover he story behind his inspiring BT Sport United initiative, dive deeper into the programme, discover what’s coming next – and also talk about BT Sport’s sustainability push, which is delivering astonishing results.
What’s the genesis of BT Sport United?
I launched BT Sport United as an initiative on 1st August 2020 - just as we went deep into the pandemic. It was driven by our aspiration for the BT Sport community to have a purpose. And when I say the community, I mean all the people we work with. We've done many initiatives in the past around working with local communities, focusing on inclusion and looking at sustainability. But it was all very piecemeal. What I wanted to do was to bring a programme together which drove engagement and gave opportunity to people working in BT Sport around the three pillars of diversity/inclusion, community and sustainability.
My absolute belief is that, whoever you work for, it isn't just about how much you get paid, and what the brand is, it's what brand stands for that matters - the principles within that organization. Especially amongst the younger people coming through, it is clear that they want to work for a company that has a purpose, that cares, and that uses its voice for good.
So initially the job was to pull those programmes together, putting it all into one brand - BT Sport United - and then take that onto our screens. So it's not only an internal engagement mechanism, it’s also an editorial strand that now sits across our channels. It means we're not preaching, but we're talking to our audiences about the things that matter to us and we think matter to them. And using that voice also to showcase the internal projects and opportunities that we get involved with, demonstrating an absolute commitment to making our industry and our network a better place - whether it's around inclusion, whether it's around sustainability, or whether it's how we integrate and connect with our community.
Practically speaking, how did you bring it all together?
Two factors drove the genesis of BT Sport United. The first was that we were already doing so much good stuff, but even some of our own teams weren't aware of it. So we tried to think of a vehicle - how can we raise awareness that drives engagement? And how do we celebrate the great stuff we do? So that was the key part of BT Sport United. My first step was to create a BT United team talk. We do a live TV show that goes out every two weeks to all of our teams, where we interview people, focus on the projects we're involved in, and we also talk about our output. This was critical during Covid, because we were all dispersed all over the place. And what I'm really proud of is the sense of community at BT Sport is stronger coming out of Covid than it was before, even though the community became more virtual.
But the other thing driving this, and this is a very personal aspect, was that I'm in one of the best jobs there is in broadcast.
Has your personal background played any role in this?
Yes – but perhaps not how you’d expect. I left home at 16. I didn't go to university, I had various different jobs. I joined the BBC in 1994, on the lowest grade booking cabs in a call centre. I left the BBC 18 years later, as the head of production for the London 2012 Olympics across TV, radio and online. I joined BT and set up BT Sport, built this infrastructure. I'm responsible for the day-to-day running and creation of the BT Sport team. And we've built a brilliant team.
And I'm not qualified for any of that. But what I do know is that I'm a hard worker, and I've learned on relationships, but I'm also very conscious of the privilege I've had, because of who I am, my background, etc. Now, I don't come from a posh family or anything like that, but it was very clear to me that the opportunities I got in the BBC were because the networks I was allowed to move in. So it's always been a passion of mine. And especially since having kids, and when I look at our industry as a whole, I think a lot about how we can become more open and attractive to bring people in who, with the right aptitude, support mechanism, and care, can be brilliant.
Our industry is one of those industries that can do that, but it has suffered in the past from lack of inclusion in particular - especially around ethnicity and gender - as being not open for business. So all the initiatives we do - whether it's apprenticeship schemes in the local boroughs, whether it's takeover days, being open, helping people understand what our industry is, and the opportunity that's there – are aimed at opening it all up if you want to be part of it.
When we set up BT Sport, we based ourselves here in Stratford in the poorest borough in London, which has a really diverse community. But I did not want to create an organisation where everyone passed through the community to come to work; that's not good enough for me. For us to truly be successful, we need to be part of the community, we need to feel part of the community. And the beauty of that is our community then gets into our DNA. If you don't have a diverse team, if you don't have that right approach, it is very hard to get that across on air and therefore talk with those communities in a way that they understand. So that's quite a long-winded answer, but in short, Stratford is now the home of exclusive Champions League broadcasting coming from this neighbourhood.
And the worst scenario would be for us to be in our ivory towers and not reflecting the neighbourhood we're in. So with things like Takeover, we are engaged in supporting our local community. Some of the people who’ve been on Takeover are moving into employment in the industry, some of the people just got their confidence, and some just enjoyed it. And that's what it should be about - work should be fun. People should feel part of something, and people should feel wanted and that for me is the ethos that we've created. The thing I'm most proud of in BT Sport is not the fantastic coverage we do, it's not our fantastic leadership and innovation, it's in here, because the people inside the building are BT Sport; BT Sport is not Stratford studios, BT Sport is the community within. And that's the thing I'm most proud of, and things like BT Sport United helped galvanise that, and help hold us to account to make sure that what we preach, we do.
What's coming next?
Well, a lot of it is building on what we already do. So now we're back in the workplace, we’re doing some more mentoring and work experience opportunities through structured programmes with local colleges and schools. And working with Rise Up of which we are a founding member and key sponsor, which is around targeting kids of school age, who are looking at their pathways. We need more equality around gender within broadcasting, but especially within sport broadcasting, and Rise Up helps us with that.
But it's about people seeing what engineering really is, because broadcasting is engineering. Enabling them to create a studio, to work as a team, and to see the output of what they're created is really powerful. And it's something I'm really proud of. And it's about opportunities because, when it comes down to it, it's all about how you work, and how you integrate into a team. I'm not solely responsible for the success of BT Sport - I'm just one of the wheels on the car. And without people around me, I would fail. And that's what we want people to understand. We want them to get an insight that actually broadcast it isn't just about standing in front of the camera or holding the camera. Every single business skill is somewhere in the chain within a broadcast operation, and it's getting people to understand that and feel like it could be a career for them.
So we're always looking at how we can attract people in, but also how we can then support them to build their careers. I’m really proud of our BT Sport apprenticeship programmes. We’ve done two, and we targeted the six boroughs impacted by the Olympics, because that's where we are. So it's very targeted; every single person on the programmes ended up in full time jobs. Two of them now work for other broadcasters, one of them has just left and is now a presenter, and all of these people came in and just got involved, learnt and have made a brilliant career for themselves. And that's really fulfilling.
Sustainability – the third pillar
We are always looking at sustainability. We're part of the albert BAFTA, and again we work cross-industry there to share best practice to look at how we can become greener and more efficient. We spent a lot of time navel gazing and a lot of time thinking if you live in glass houses, you can't throw stones. But then there was a realisation within our organisation when they that we're doing a lot of good and while we're not perfect, we could still talk about this with our audiences and drive more engagement. There’s not much good come out of Covid, but forcing us to move to remote production and completely change how we work reduced our carbon footprint by about 50% because we're not sending people all over. Changing from normal fossil fuel to green fuel has a massive impact, and the fact that our studio is already the biggest LED-lit facility in the world, which use less energy and need less cooling, is another example.
So what we've started to say is we're doing some really good stuff here, so let's celebrate that. And even little things like taking beef off the menu, all of those little things have an impact when you add them all together. And it's something that people are really passionate about. When you look at the scare stories out there around the impact on the world, and especially for us who have kids, we want them to inherit something that's almost like what we have as regards ways of life, etc. So that's what we’re committed to.
And remote production also is a massive enabler around inclusion and diversity as well. All of our galleries, for instance, at Stratford that support remote production are also accessible. With the best will in the world in the old days of giant OB trucks, it's very hard to get a wheelchair in. And now we’re looking at transitioning our remote production that one step further to cloud production, which also improves sustainability, but also means people can work anywhere, but still be part of a gallery team. What that means is you're no longer selecting people to work for you just on their geographical place of being; you can be more open and more people can get involved.
When we went completely remote here at Stratford, we were able to carry out our main control room operations remotely. People at home are able to bring the feeds into the building, divert them, route them all, etc, which you'd never have thought would be possible. And that means you can start looking at people who have caring responsibilities, or people who are part time. Because the big challenge, as we all know, around that sort of area is around travel and being away. So all of those things are what we're looking at that not only drive our inclusivity agenda, but also absolutely drive down our footprint as regards carbon emissions. And we're talking about this much, much more on air.
And the impact is huge – internally we have about halved our carbon footprint on average. And where we do have to create emissions, we look at how we can offset to get ourselves to net neutrality as soon as we can. But our primary objective is about changing how you behave to reduce emissions, rather than just offsetting.
*Jamie Hindhaugh was promoted to Head of BT Sport shortly after this interview took place in March