Tony Hall reveals major action plan to tackle BBC diversity

Thus read a recent headline in The Stage and expanding on my impromptu Facebook response
Lenny Henry BAFTA Television Lecture 2014


It’s taken a high-profile BAME (British Asian Minority Ethnic), Lenny Henry to embarrass Aunty into doing something. While all of this is great. It means nought if there is no robust mechanism, procedures and protocols in place to ensure that these plans are rolled out effectively and efficiently and are actually practically affecting the way the media and the arts utilise BAME talent.

Tony Hall, director general of the BBC. Photo: Johan Persson

The BBC according to the recent exchange they had with East Asian student
Bess (AKA Katherine) Chan stated that they had measures in place when it came to diversity.
Already I see a huge flaw. Once again British East Asians appear to missing from this ‘major action plan.’  Will these new measures stop the BBC and other media producers from discounting East Asian artists as ‘lacking in authenticity’ and therefore feeling justified in casting overseas? Attitudes have to change in the UK and that starts with robust monitoring, encouraging and bringing on East Asian writers of ALL ages not just “emerging” for which it appears one has to be between the ages of 16-30!

There is a wealth of British talent, of British Asian Minority and Ethnic talent that the BBC ignores at its peril. There is a wealth of British East Asian talent that is still being side-barred and not just by the BBC. But as the flagship, as a publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC should be leading the way.  Excuse me for not being overly enthusiastic but I have seen many initiatives over the years come and go. I have also seen many of my (BAME) friends, colleagues and acquaintances pack up, either leave the country or just give in altogether.
Those that have left these shore, many have found that they can make a living over in the US (and other places) something that very few actors, let alone BAME actors can do on these shores.

When you consider that the UK has in many cases invested in these actors, via the old grants system in my case, or student loans,  it seems an utter madness that this investment is not nurtured to full fruition.  But, I suspect, if the establishment and country that you live in doesn’t see you as part of the society;  for example some of the comments that Lenny Henry received after he had given BAFTA Television Lecture many via Twitter

‘If he (Henry) wants a lot of blacks around go and live in a black country.’ On another occasion, Mr Henwood tweeted: ‘Islam reminds me of the 3rd Reich Strength through violence against the citizens.’

To which of course many responded, that Lenny Henry already did. Didn’t he (Mr Henwood) realise Lenny came from the Black country?

Then you’re not going to be considered and therefore you won’t figure in the big media scheme of things and there is a disjunct between what is actually happening in Britain and what Producers and those responsible for media content view as reality. Whether that through a comedic, dramatic or factionalised lens.
You only have to scroll through the comments below the two Daily Mail articles to see what British people, who happen to have non Caucasian roots, still have to endure in supposed modern, multicultural and poly ethnic British society. Diversity is here to stay, though I am sure, there are many on all sides of all fences. Be those religious or cultural who spout their preference for their own elite and pure “isms” sadly we will never be able to stop such people from having extreme views. But the majority of people, I’d like to think, just want to get on with their lives. They want the best for themselves, their children and their loved ones. They want things to be proud of, things that reflect the country that they live in. Just think back to the Olympics 2012.

No one is saying that the BBC has to give actors jobs.  BAME artists would just like to be able to compete on a level playing field. We’d just like to know that we will be considered not just for the “obvious” roles because that’s what BAME actors have always been cast as – but for other roles, that reflect more completely and accurately, the diversity which can be found on British streets, in British businesses, schools and colleges.

If we want our media to better reflect actuality, then the media has to start viewing BAMEs as part of society not additional, separate or as an “add-on” to it. We are part and parcel of the British landscape, no matter what feelings that might instil in people.  Diversity is here, it’s real and it is reflected in the faces of the people you walk past every day. BAMEs are not an adjunct, an addendum or a mere footnote –  we are real, we have purpose, we have vision and we contribute.