Earlier in October we held an event entitled ‘Diversity in Radio and TV - Is it working?’. This event heard broadcaster Edward Adoo discuss with fellow Broadcasters Angie Greaves, Claudia Liza Armah and Simone Pennant from the TV Collective to find out whether current initiatives to improve opportunities for BME talent in Radio and TV are working and what needs to be done to make both sides of the industry (on and off camera - on and off air) fully representative.
Edward Adoo follows up with an interesting read below:
Since Lenny Henry voiced his concerns on BAME talent at BAFTA three years ago it has changed the way diversity is perceived across the industry. It gave me an opportunity to voice my concerns and connect with former BBC Director of Television, Danny Cohen on email. Danny understood my concerns and immediately introduced me to various executives at the BBC. There are not many DC's (Danny Cohen's) out there who would take time out to help talent especially on a Sunday morning.
From previous experience if anyone mentioned lack of BAME's in the work place they were either deemed to be trouble makers or racists. It was uncomfortable to address. Talent simply kept their thoughts to themselves. It allowed the bogus and racist mindset to increase. I once noted my concerns as to why EMAP failed to place any BAME talent on Kiss FM during it's tenure back in 2000 to 2006. I was immediately blacklisted and told by senior management "due to previous conversations there would never be work available for me at Kiss FM again". At that point I could have walked away from the industry but passion and determination kept me going through that dark and challenging period.
Government initiatives in place have certainly ensured we are heading in the right direction but there are still problems and people still don't get it. Both previous and current culture ministers, Ed Vaizey and Matt Hancock get it and steering things in the right direction. There are still problems and conversations I have had with radio editors outline those negative stereotypes. Excuses are still given "it's not based on diversity but talent". Straight away the gauntlet has been removed allowing the topic to fizzle out of control.
Not sure whether it's an institutionalised or class issue as background is also key to the diversity debate. Most people who work in the industry are educated in the higher echelons of society, they mingle with their peers who set the agenda where as their counterparts who live on council estates or educated through the state system did not have a golden ticket or PR opportunity.
With tuition fees set to increase and with the level that it is now, that may prevent more BAME's from seeking a route in through media degrees or seeking a career within the industry. What's the alternative? How can people bring the next generation in? Simple, through work experience placements and giving people a chance to shadow programmes, create content and platforms to voice their opinions.
It's not as easy as it seems as the current level of BAME staff in editorial or commissioning posts in TV is lacking. Some may say it’s better than it was but the key decision makers are still middle class and white. More needs to be done but is it due to lack of awareness or lack of opportunities? It's full circle, not just in TV but radio. A vast number of commercial radio stations still do not have any BAME talent on their line up or weekly schedule. This extends to some parts of BBC local radio that are outside of key cities. I have repeatedly called for Global Radio and LBC to improve this especially as they brand themselves as 'Leading Britain's Conversation'. Steps are being taken to address this but it's not just about presenting talent but behind the scenes, the people who make those key decisions such as editors, programme managers and producers. It's imperative people are hired from different backgrounds in radio so they are able to put their ideas and input on content and scheduling decisions.
There is also an issue regarding talent management. To date, I don't think there are any companies who have BAME agents or whether there are any talent agencies companies owned by BAME's. The proportion of agents are still predominantly white. The problem is not just an ethnicity issue but around identity and culture. Yet again it's imperative for people to connect with the people they work with. I think that's essential to keep this discussion moving in the right direction or else we will keep on having never ending diversity debates.