Vanessa Thorpe, The Guardian, October 1, 2017
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called for speedy enforcement of clear new rules to ensure that all British broadcasters offer a fair representation of the country’s ethnic makeup.
In a strongly worded letter to Ofcom head Sharon White, backed by the performer Lenny Henry, Khan urges that money to make more ethnically diverse television programmes should be [earmarked].
“The BBC, Sky TV, Channel 4 and the BFI all have different definitions, which at times are so broad that they can be met without employing a single person of colour either on or off-screen,” he writes, endorsing Henry’s plan for every qualifying BAME [black, Asian, minority ethnic] production to have 50% or more of its staff and talent BAME, as well as 30% of senior personnel.
“This year,” he told the Observer, “marks the 30th anniversary of Black History Month in the UK. It’s time our broadcasters step up to the plate and redouble their efforts to be properly representative of the population as a whole.”
Taking White up on comments she made to the Guardian last month describing progress when it comes to BAME representation as “woeful” , the mayor argues that Ofcom should be prepared to act across the board. He joins forces with campaigners such as Henry, Meera Syal and Idris Elba.
Supporting the letter, Henry said: “We all know that ‘if you can’t see, you can’t be’. Mr Khan’s words are a direct plea to Ofcom to put pressure on broadcasters to represent minorities both on screen and behind the camera.”
The mayor also criticises the BBC for failing to show leadership. A series of mathematical dodges, he claims, has distorted the issue.
“Currently, statistics published by broadcasters on BAME employment in the broadcasting industry are inconsistent and, at times, misleading. They often merge those working in financial and commercial departments with those working on the creative or production side of the industry, thereby distorting the creative input of BAME representation in the broadcasting industry.
“At times, the statistics give little detail of who occupies editorial positions and levels of seniority of BAME staff. Furthermore, some statistics merge those working in overseas departments with those working in the UK, which can give a misleading impression of the level of BAME employment in the broadcasting industry among the UK population. It is clear that a more robust approach is needed.”
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We share the Mayor’s concern that broadcasters must do more to improve diversity on and off screen. We hope to meet the Mayor soon to discuss our current work on this important issue.”