Posted on July 10, 2008

BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day Accused of Racism Over African ‘Moral Deficit’ Claim

Nicole Martin, London Telegraph, July 10, 2008

Clifford Longley, the author and writer, said on the corporation’s early morning religious slot that a Nigerian theologian had suggested African culture had always lacked “a developed sense of common humanity”, which explained “Africa’s propensity to turn to massacre and genocide”.

He said in the broadcast that the Nigerian theologian had suggested to him that Africans suffered from the deficit.

His comments, which were made last month, prompted the BBC Black and Asian Forum to complain to the corporation’s head of news and to the editor of the Today programme.

Winston Phillips, the forum’s chairman, said he found the remarks “offensive”, adding that many listeners believed the remarks were “racist”.

“While sensitive to the need for an exchange of wide-ranging views on important topics, the BBAF also feels the BBC should ensure it does not present racist or xenophobic views in an unqualified way,” he said in a letter published in Ariel, the BBC’s in-house magazine.

“The fact that the broadcast went out unchallenged points to a wider problem in the BBC, and the media generally—the failure to advance [black and Asian] people to senior positions.

His remarks comes only weeks after a senior BBC executive attacked the corporation and other broadcasters for failing to employ black and Asian people in senior roles.

Samir Shah, a non-executive director at the BBC, said that ethnic minorities as well as people from working class backgrounds were still being excluded from the industry’s so-called “power elite”, despite equal opportunity policies stretching back 30 years.

A BBC spokesman said: “We have received a complaint from the BBAF and are looking into it and we will be responding in due course.”