He is one of the BBC’s most prominent black journalists and even featured in an episode of EastEnders, but Kurt Barling has found himself ‘surplus to requirements’ under new director-general Tony Hall.
Barling has hit out at his bosses at the Corporation after being told he is being made redundant as part of Lord Hall’s ‘Delivering Quality First’ cuts.
‘Let’s be blunt,’ he tells colleagues in an email. ‘I am not leaving you out of choice.
‘It beats me why the BBC has brought my news contribution to a premature close at a time when national debate is crying out for greater diversity and experience on screen and behind it.
‘BAME [Black And Minority Ethnic] people on screen are as important as BAME people in a police uniform.’
Barling, who is also a professor of journalism at Middlesex University, London, left the BBC on Friday after more than 24 years with the Corporation.
As well as working for all the news bulletins, The Money Programme, Newsnight and Money Box, he presented a string of documentaries including one about the murder of PC Keith Blakelock in the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots in Tottenham. Barling rescued his own future brother-in-law from the riots.
‘Someone senior in the BBC said to me I could write a book about my illustrious career, having been one of the most senior non-white broadcasters in Britain for nearly two decades,’ adds Barling, who hints that not all colleagues have been admirers of his.
He says ‘the potential for ego clashes was enormous’ given that his role as a special correspondent meant he could ‘rain on their parade at any point’.
Referring to BBC London’s political editor Tim Donovan and ego clashes, he adds: ‘It never happened unless Tim was particularly upset.’
Barling’s sacking came on the eve of a newspaper interview with BBC strategy chief James Purnell, in which he said: ‘We are still too white.’
And just yesterday, Sir Trevor McDonald warned the media to be vigilant against the risk of an ‘apartheid’ system that does not properly represent Britain’s ethnically diverse population.
The former News at Ten anchor, who was ITN’s first black reporter in the Seventies, was speaking after comedian Lenny Henry called for money to be ring-fenced to boost the ‘appalling’ representation of non-white people in the broadcasting industry.
Asked why it had sacked Barling, a BBC spokesman oddly declined to pay tribute to the long-serving journalist. Instead, it issued a curt statement saying: ‘In response to your query, this post has closed as part of on-going BBC savings under DQF [Delivering Quality First].’
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