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Bid to boost diversity at the BBC

PROMOTED: Andy Akinwolere has gone from Blue Peter to BBC’s Inside Out West Midlands

THE BBC’s plans to increase the number of black Britons, Asians and other ethnic minorities working on air and behind the scenes have been cautiously welcomed by one of its former executives.

Patrick Younge, the BBC’s former chief creative officer, told The Voice he was glad to see the broadcaster doing more to boost diversity, but had concerns about when these changes would be implemented.

He also said he does not think the plan goes far enough to correct a gap in ethnic minority representation for which the BBC has long been criticised.

“Obviously, every bit helps and the devil of it will be in the details,” said Younge. “I think they are doing it for the right reasons. The question I am asking is: are they doing enough?”

Earlier this month, BBC Director General Tony Hall announced an action plan to boost diversity at the BBC. The plans included:

• A new top level leadership development programme

• A new £2.1m Diversity Creative Talent Fund that aims to fast track ideas to the screen and tackle black, Asian or minority ethnic (BME) portrayal in BBC programmes

• More training internships alongside the BBC’s existing apprenticeships

• A new Independent Diversity Advisory Group

• New on and off air BME representation targets. They aim to increase on-air BME portrayal from 10.4 percent to 15 percent

• Increasing its BME senior level staff in TV, radio production, broadcast journalism, commissioning and scheduling from its current 8.3 per cent to 10 per cent by 2017 and to 15 per cent by 2020

But Younge said he would prefer to see implementation of a proposal made by Lenny Henry at the Baftas in March.
That proposal called for funding to be ring-fenced to produce black and Asian programmes. It also wanted a rating scheme to ensure productions covered by this funding would meet criteria such as having at least 50 per cent of production staff or 50 per cent of on screen talent recruited from a BME background.

WANTS MORE: Former BBC executive Pat Younge

Younge, who also gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Parliamentary Select Committee on June 24, said: “They [the BBC] will face challenges because what they have put forward are a series of initiatives and what the Henry Plan makes clear is that we believe the problem is more structural…We believe the problem is more structural and needs a bigger and more encompassing solution.”

He also questioned whether the diversity advisory panel “would have the power to get the evidence they need and hold them to account?”

At the select committee, the BBC was also criticised for using ‘an old model that doesn’t work’ and reducing BME numbers, despite 29 initiatives by the state-owned British broadcaster.

Top BME talent needed breaks into the industry and not more training, the committee heard.

Hall said: “The BBC gets much right on diversity, but the simple fact is that we need to do more.”

He added: “The package of measures I’ve put in place, alongside the support we’ll get from leading experts, will make a tangible difference. We will review progress regularly, and if we need to expand our approach even more, then we will. It is something we have to get right.

“My aim is for the BBC to be the number one destination for talented people regardless of their background. It’s time for action.”

Two key appointments are former T4 presenter June Sarpong who will do special reporting for BBC’s Newsnight, and Blue Peter presenter Andy Akinwolere to front BBC Inside Out West Midlands.

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