The BBC was yesterday plunged into a row over its foreign reporting after its new “diversity czar” said there were too many white journalists reporting from non-white nations, particularly in Africa.
Mary Fitzpatrick said that she was tired of repeatedly seeing programmes where the situation was “here we are in Africa, and here’s a white person saying, well, look at these people”.
She said it was vital that BBC news reflected the audience that it was serving, with “valid and culturally accurate voices speaking.”
She added: “I would prefer to see somebody who understands that culture, understands what’s going on and can say, ‘Look with me because I am part of this’. It feels more authoritative and more involved.”
Rajeh Omaar, the Somali-born reporter who made his reputation reporting from Baghdad, has recently left to work for al-Jazeera, saying Western news organisations were perpetrating “a fraud” on their viewers with misleading coverage of the war in Iraq.
Miss Fitzpatrick told The Observer that the BBC’s team of foreign correspondents should come from the same ethnic background as the country they were reporting from.
The BBC said last night it was “absurd” to suggest that correspondents of the calibre of Fergal Keane, John Simpson, Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin “lack credibility with our audiences because they are white”.
“We have a number of reporters from ethnic minorities who cover stories around the world.”