Daily Mail (UK), August 31, 2006
A black leader today called for a boycott of the BBC over its screening of a controversial drama about black teenage boys.
Shoot the Messenger, shown on BBC2 last night, told the story of a black teacher trying to save his students from gangs, crime and underachievement — and suggests there is a “blame culture” among black Britons.
But today one black leader said the programme was racist and damaging to the community — and urged people to stop paying their licence fee to show their disapproval.
Toyin Agbetu, founder of African British media campaign group Ligali, said today: “I personally refuse to pay my licence tax, as I prefer to call it, and we would urge people to withhold theirs in support.
“We know there is a large percentage of the black community who are in agreement with us and that number is growing. There are much better ways of spending £130 a year — and we mean to tell the BBC to stop showing things like this and start treating black people with respect, not just as entertainers or musicians or criminals.”
In the provocative opening scene of Shoot the Messenger the main character, Joe, played by Spooks actor David Oyelowo, says: “Whenever I think about it, everything bad that has ever happened to me has involved a black person.”
Many community leaders registered their concern after the private screening earlier this summer — but BBC bosses decided to go ahead and broadcast the drama.
Mr Agebtu said: “The damage has already been done now that Shoot the Messenger has been broadcast.
“The idea that we, as a community, look to blame other people for our problems is complete fabrication. Yes, it’s a professional piece of drama but it has been commissioned by the BBC in a clear attempt to stir up controversy. I am not prepared to support a film that characterises our community in such a negative way.” The play, written by Sharon Foster, was originally called “F**k black people” but the name was toned down by BBC bosses.
Its language is deliberately provocativewith the lead character called a “house nigger” and accused of being a “Klansman in a black skin”.