February 13, 2008
In a hard-hitting speech to the Royal Television Society last week, the comedian Lenny Henry said broadcasters needed to do more to encourage ethnic diversity. He said:
When I started, I was surrounded by a predominantly white workforce. Thirty-two years later, not a lot has changed,” he said in a speech to the Royal Television Society.
How many black British comedians are working on mainstream TV today? One? Two? Ethnic minorities are pitifully under-served. Is there anybody going out to the comedy clubs with their diversity goggles on? Are the researchers casting their net far and wide? This is an area that needs a massive kick up the bum.
This comes not long after BBC’s internal statistics showed that the number of ethnic minorities it employs has fallen slightly recently. That doesn’t even take into account the situation at the top. Yesterday, respected producer Samir Shah, also a BBC non-executive director, said the corporation needed to do more. He said:
The BBC is the most significant player in British broadcasting â€¦ and it needs to make a shift because its performance at senior management level is dire, absolutely dire.
Thirty years after Lenny came into the business, there is not one black person, not one Asian person good enough to be a [channel] controller. It is an outrage and I think Lenny’s call for affirmative action is the least we can do.
Some years ago the BBC had about 300 diversity initiatives, but it’s the outcome that matters. We now need to put in place some serious enforcements if we are not to have another speech in another 10 years.
In response the BBC head of diversity, Andrea Callender, told the in-house magazine Ariel that a three-year mentoring scheme for minorities was being put in place. The mentoring scheme will be no quick fix,” she said. “But in three years I would expect participants to feel their careers had been enhanced and mentors to feel they had a wider pool of talent to draw on.”
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