At the end of this month the BBC will lose yet another senior member of staff when Aaqil Ahmed, former Head of Religion leaves the corporation. In January Maxine Watson left after 20 something years, bringing the total number of senior Black and Asian execs to have left the corporation in the last year to eight, how ironic, given the BBC is in the midst of its biggest diversity drive of recent years.

People of colour are leaving, I’d use the phrase ‘in droves’ here but lets be honest there aren’t droves of us there in the first place. The latest staff figures show more BAME staff left the BBC in the last year (474) than joined (469) (Figures from David Lammys speech Aril 2016)

Nearly 20 years ago the BBC along with the Television Training Trust hired nine black production staff.  I was one of them.

We all started off as Trainee Assistant producers, TAPS as we were called back then.  It was a two year scheme which ran alongside the regular TAP course, which was made up of an all white staff team.

We nine, became known wherever we went in the BBC, as members of the black course.  At the end of our two years we wrote a paper detailing our experience of being black in the corporation. It was damming. Each and every one of us had been subject to racism from all departments and staff members no matter their level from senior execs to lowly researchers.

We were all told if we went public with it we would be sacked.

Fast forward to 2002, the BBC had Greg Dykes, hideously white comments spawned ‘make it happen’ an initiative designed to cut through the crap and bureaucracy.

Great idea, but as we all knew he wasn’t the gate-keeper and it was they who still appointed in their own image.

Today in 2017, there are more and more black people coming through the doors at trainee positions, but how long will they stay in the corporation. Out of my group of nine TAP’s, none of us remains at the BBC. That’s nine people the BBC invested and trained to Producer/Director level, only to then let go.

The issue doesn’t seem to be lack of qualified of BAME talent, but whether they are trusted to do the job.

Of the recent ‘leavers’ their combined  experience would have equaled over a hundred years working on many flagship programmes across the Channel. For example Maxine executive produced a number of hit shows including the flagship prograame ‘Who do you think you are’, Marcus Ryder ran News and Current Affairs in Scotland and Aaqil Ahmed Head of Religion.

Where else in the industry is there on the job training? How many training schemes are there targeted at those not from a ‘diverse’ background?

All of these training schemes send out one clear and very loud message – Those from BAME and other diverse backgrounds are not seen as good enough to do the job. And if you are lucky enough climb up the slippery ladder the heavy thud of the glass ceiling will soon show you the limitations that obstruct  your ambitions.

I was at Maxine’s leaving do. Charlotte Moore BBC’s Director of Content made a long heartfelt speech about Maxine’s achievements and how much the BBC will miss her. The one thing that struck me most was her reference to Maxine’s rapid rise through the BBC ranks. I have no idea when Charlotte started and in what position and how long she’s worked in telly, but I’d put money on it, her rise was swifter than Maxine’s.

Rapid rise? What did she mean, rapid for a black person? Trust me it hasn’t been rapid at all. If it had been the multi talented blonde Maxine or Pippa Watson, she would have been running the BBC not leaving it.

Pat Younge Sugar Films, said at Maxine’s leaving do

‘…. sometimes you don’t realize a person contribution until they’re gone”.


@petal_felix. Petal Felix has over twenty years experience as a journalist in radio and television. She had produced programmes for Woman’s Hour, BBC world service and BCC TV in docs.