THE BBC has come under fire for under-serving black audiences as it prepares to carry out further cuts to its local radio diversity team. An inside source within the public broadcaster revealed to The Voice that the only full-time specialist journalist employed to focus on local radio programming for African and Caribbean communities will be cut from its news hub, BBC UK Black.
The online hub is a specialist multimedia page on the BBC’s website that focuses on news and features affecting black communities in regions such as Northampton, Nottingham, Bedfordshire and London.
The BBC’s community affairs unit – the department feeding into BBC UK Black programmes – used to include 12 specialist journalists up until 1997 when it was cut to just one single role.
Now, one full-time editor and one full-time journalist will be responsible for the BBC’s local radio programming for all Asian, African and Caribbean content across 14 UK regions as of March.
A BBC spokeswoman confirmed the changes.
She said: “From the end of March 2014 there will be a change to the structure of the diversity team at BBC English Regions headquarters. We will therefore maintain a total of two equivalent full time roles in this area of English Regions’ programming and one broadcast journalist post will close.”
The source explained that the two roles that will be retained include one specialist South Asian journalist and the editor of the diversity team, who doesn’t directly feed material into programmes.
“This just demonstrates how little the BBC understands about ethnic communities,” the source who did not wish to be identified told The Voice.
“You can’t assume an Asian journalist is going to know everything about the black community, and vice versa. Black British news is a specialism in its own right.”
In January, BBC bosses chose to scrap BBC UK Black’s weekly podcast, which features highlights of the week’s best shows.
However, the BBC’s recently-appointed director of news and current affairs, James Harding, told staff in a briefing that he was determined to address diversity on and off the air.
During the brief, which was Harding’s first statement of intent since taking up the role in August 2013, he also said the BBC had started to make positive steps in broadening diversity on air, but that there was more to be done.
Harding said: “We’ve got to be clear we’ve got a problem. We’ve got an on-air issue. I personally think we’ve got an even bigger one off-air.”
But the source contended that despite Harding’s statement the BBC was not concerned about diversity at all.
“There’s all this talk about diversity but actually when you look at what’s happening, you can see the BBC just don’t care in the slightest.
“Where will young, up-and-coming black journalists go? It’s just a kick in the teeth,” the source said in frustration.
Samantha Asumadu, via her organisation Media Diversified, is actively campaigning to get more journalists of colour published in national newspapers and magazines as well as heard on broadcast media outlets.
Asumadu said: “The media in any country should be a reflection of its society.”
Politician and MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott, in speaking about diversity in the media in an interview with The Voice, said the media industry has not changed since she worked for ITV more than two decades ago.
“I think it’s very sad that TV and radio is no more diverse than it was 25 years ago,” she added. “When it comes to behind the cameras, there is not any change at all.”