Anita Singh, Telegraph (London), April 28, 2014
Senior BBC staff have taken a course in “unconscious bias” in a bid to stop them recruiting new employees “in their own image”, the director of news has disclosed.
James Harding, who joined the BBC last year, said his staff had been given training to improve the diversity of new recruits, with targets to increase the representation of ethnic minorities.
In a speech to staff at New Broadcasting House yesterday, he disclosed the senior recruiting board were so concerned about continuing to employ staff with similar backgrounds that they had each take a course in “unconscious bias”.
They are already offered video training on diversity issues, with online information to teach them how to challenge stereotypes and preconceptions about race.
The speech follows findings from the BBC Trust, published yesterday (Mon), which order BBC management to increase the number of ethnic minority faces in news and current affairs, both on screen and behind the camera.
Mr Harding said: “If we really are determined to make the BBC more representative of the audiences it serves, then we have to intervene.
“There is no single fix that is either practical or fair. Instead, we have to set in motion a great many things which will, together, add up to a fundamental change.”
He added: “Across News, we worry that we have a tendency to recruit in our own image, so all members of the News Group Board have taken a course in unconscious bias.”
According to the BBC Trust, research has shown that some viewers and listeners find BBC News too “distant” and “formal” in tone, and failing “to reflect the diversity of life in the UK today”.
The Trust said: “In part, this audience need could be addressed by BBC News and Current Affairs looking, sound and, more importantly, being as diverse as the audience it serves.
“This is not a new challenge and it is one recognised by the entire industry, but the Trust believes the BBC must take a leadership role for the sector as a whole.
“Audiences need to recognise their own lives, perspectives and concerns duly reflected in the BBC’s programmes. BBC News needs to be heard as having a multiplicity of voices, with its own authority grounded in its experience and understanding of the many interests, cultures and communities that make up the UK.”
The BBC has already been publicly challenged to improve the representation of ethnic minority by actors including Lenny Henry.
The Trust has now given management a year to produce “concrete proposals from the BBC to achieve this, and further progress in terms of both gender and ethnicity”.