Anita Singh, Telegraph (London), July 15, 2014
The BBC’s plan to promote ethnic minority staff is racist, a Tory MP has claimed as he challenged executives to give their own jobs to black candidates if they are so passionate about diversity.
Philip Davies said the BBC’s “politically correct targets” discriminated against the white working class, who are also under-represented at the corporation but are not the subject of diversity quotas.
He confronted Lord Hall, the director-general, and a panel of other BBC executives–all of whom are white–appearing before the House of Commons culture select committee.
After Lord Hall said the BBC must employ “as many people as possible from as many different backgrounds as possible”, Mr Davies rounded on the panel.
“I’m looking at you four–which of you four are prepared to fall on your swords and let a black person have that job?” he asked.
“Show a bit of leadership and vacate your own jobs if you’re so passionate about it. Or does it just apply to everyone else’s jobs apart from yours?”
Lord Hall and his colleagues–director of strategy James Purnell, BBC television controller Danny Cohen and non-executive director Dame Fiona Reynolds – declined to take up the offer.
Mr Davies, MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire, joked that today was “a good day to talk about diversity”–a reference to the Cabinet reshuffle in which a succession of middle-aged white men were shown the door.
Under new quotas announced last month, one in seven BBC presenters and actors will be black or minority ethnic by 2017, along with one in 10 managers.
Mr Davies said: “You are going down what I personally consider to be a racist approach.
“To me, the true racists are people who see everything in terms of race when what we should surely be is colour blind. Just as it is racist to prevent someone from having a job when they are black, it is equally racist to give someone a job just because they are black.
“It is a racist policy to get a certain amount of people from an ethnic minority into jobs.
“If I have a white, working class constituent who wants that opportunity . . . why should they be deprived because you’ve set these politically correct targets?”
Lord Hall responded: “Look at the data and see what’s happening at the BBC, and there is a kind of ceiling–BAME [black, Asian and ethnic minority] people tend to get to a certain point and don’t rise.
“The theme here is not racism, it is equality of opportunity.”