Charlotte Moore Controller of BBC1

 Charlotte Moore Controller of BBC1

Two weeks ago at “Diversity in Television: Lenny Henry 18 months on” Lenny Henry explained again why the Lenny Henry Plan for driving BAME employment in broadcasting should be taken up. He argues that ring fenced funds for Nations and Regions led to a 400% increase in the number of network programmes produced in the English regions and that a similar fund for BAME employment should be created with relevant criteria. Lenny Henry spelled it out in detail at his first BAFTA lecture 18 months ago and this time he urged the government and Ofcom to make it happen.

The latest BAFTA meeting provided a platform for the BBC objections to the Henry Plan to be presented for the first time.  BBC1 Controller, Charlotte Moore, was the BBC spokesperson. She was asked three times about the Henry proposals and all her responses were consistent.

Charlotte Moore explained that the BBC had thought long and hard about ring fenced funding. Quotas were very difficult and complex to put in place and she worried that ring fencing might have some of the same issues as quotas — that you might just go “that’s the issue over there — dealt with!” What the BBC really wanted to do was to make sure that diversity was in the mainstream and that diversity was actually holistic, “that it should be throughout all of our productions — that is both in front of the cameras as well as behind the camera.” She said she didn’t believe ring fenced funding would bring the change across all BBC productions that she believed the BBC needed. In relation to the comparison with ring fenced funds for Nations and Regions, she said that with Nations and Regions it was a very complex picture. One of the real issues with some of the quotas for Nations and Regions that the BBC had was about sustainability. What was needed was sustainable change across the industry and across the whole of the BBC. She said, “I don’t want to see it as another tick boxing exercise that can happen with quotas, that can happen with ring fenced money, that then disappears.” She said that the solutions that the BBC was offering up, had been thought about long and hard and she really felt that that these are the solutions that would bring about real change.

Difficult and Complex

These arguments just don’t stand up. Charlotte Moore suggests that quotas and ring fenced funds would be difficult to put in place. They are only difficult to put in place where they relate to under represented groups. Consider a quota of 40% white men for each department, with 40% of departmental budgets ring fenced for the employment of white men according the criteria of the Lenny Henry Plan. It is likely that every BBC department would instantly meet the quota and be able to attribute programmes to the Henry Plan ring fenced budget without any difficulty or complexity and without any change.

Implementing quotas and ring fenced funds may have been difficult and complex in relation to Nations and Regions, as has been suggested, but this approach has been very effective and the effort that was expended to addressing the complexities for Nations and Regions should now be applied to rectify the chronic under representation of BAME people in BBC employment. Addressing the under representation of Nations and Regions has given the BBC a wealth of experience which it could now apply to quotas and ring fenced funds for under represented groups. In relation to Nations and Regions, the BBC is not claiming that “the issue is over — dealt with!” but it can claim justifiably that with the 400% increase in Network programmes produced in the English Regions significant progress has been made.

Holistic

There need be no conflict between ring fenced funds, quotas, targets and other measures to promote diversity. They are complementary. Ring fenced funds would certainly drive change and if the same percentage of ring fenced funding were applied by each BBC department, in line with the Lenny Henry Plan, it would drive change across the whole of the BBC and ensure that diversity was placed in the mainstream. Given that the BBC is the sum of its sometimes interdependent parts it is difficult to understand how such an approach might not be considered an essential element in a holistic approach. It is also hard to understand how the change to fairer representation across the BBC might not be sustainable if ring fenced funding and quotas were to be sustained.

15 Years of Diversity Failure

Ms Moore suggested that the solutions that the BBC was offering up would bring real change. With the exception of the Diversity Creative Talent Fund all the current solutions offered mirror elements of the BBC Cultural Diversity Network Action Plan 2000. This Action Plan contains a catalogue of useful initiatives but experience over fifteen years demonstrates that they have not been sufficient to drive the necessary structural change.  Everyone thought they would work but in practice we have seen 15 years of diversity failure. The Diversity Creative Talent Fund is focused on portrayal. A BBC Diversity blog published in October provides no evidence that the Diversity Creative Talent Fund kis having any impact on structural change but nor was it intended to. Measures like the Lenny Henry Plan combined with the limited use of quotas suggested by the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality are now essential.

Tick Boxing

It is important to understand tick boxing. Charlotte Moore said she did not want to see diversity as another tick boxing exercise. The terms “tick boxing” and “box ticking” are always applied as derogatory terms yet they mean nothing more than meeting criteria. Management of organisations both large and small requires that decisions are measured against criteria which may be explicit or implicit.

The appointment of the BBC Director General involved a lot of box ticking. There were twelve “Must Have” boxes to be ticked. It was also suggested that it would also be nice if the Director General had Commercial acumen, Editorial background, Cross-platform experience, and International experience. The appointment process led to a successful outcome because there were criteria to be met by which potential candidates could be identified and from which the best candidate could be selected.

The assumption that box ticking and targets exclude must exclude consideration of merit is utterly mistaken.

Newsnight

In October the Independent published video evidence about diversity on Newsnight. The Newsnight video shows a wholly white team working behind the scenes. The Independent reported “The 11-minute film made by the Royal Television Society (RTS) last December features staff of the flagship BBC2 show ranging from the presenter Evan Davis and editor Ian Katz to the producers, those attending editorial meetings, those in the production suite, the floor manager and the lighting director. All those featured are white.” This is despite all the initiatives in the BBC Diversity Action Plan 2000.

If there had been even minimal diversity quotas, Newsnight would have been forced to look beyond the same-old same-old suspects and might have considered black journalists who are working abroad like former CNN Business Correspondent, Zain Asher, who is now a CNN presenter, or Eno Alfred, presenter on Good Morning Nigera and a reporter on the investigative series “30 Minutes.” If it was interested in diversity the BBC might have noticed Nima Elbagir when she was shortlisted for the RTS Young Journalist of the Year Award in 2008. In the same year she also picked up two Foreign Press Association Awards. CNN (again) hired her in 2011 and last year Elbagir was the first international journalist to report from Chibook, the village from which the schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, where she interviewed two young girls who managed to escape – one of her many exclusives. CNN didn’t need quotas but it is clear that the BBC does.

Radio 5 Live

The same Independent report also published a video of a 16-minute public presentation made in September by the controller of Radio 5 Live, Jonathan Wall, titled Where Next for Radio 5 Live? in which he makes no reference to the BAME audience and includes no non-white people in a video used to demonstrate the station’s ambitions. 

The Campaign for Broadcasting Equality submission to the House of Lords Communications Committee contains overwhelming additional evidence of BBC Diversity Failure over 15 years.

Nothing Charlotte Moore said at BAFTA undermines arguments for the Lenny Henry Plan or limited quotas. The suggestion that the BBC shouldn’t do something to advance diversity because it may be difficult and complex – beggars belief.

Simon Albury is Chair of the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality

 

Notes:

1 Hear everything Charlotte Moore said via the Soundcloud file – http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2015/nov/18/lenny-henry-reiterates-his-call-for-a-sea-change-on-diversity?CMP=share_btn_tw

2 The BBC Cultural Diversity Network Action Plan 2000 as available as a pdf from cequalitybroadcasting@gmail.com

3 Tunde Ogungbesan, “How we’re improving diversity and inclusion at the BBC”, 16 –  http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/entries/15196391-d99e-414c-8400-

4 See Campaign for Broadcasting Equality evidence to the House of Lords http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/communications-committee/bbc-charter-renewal-public-purposes-and-licence-

5 http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/news/DG_jobspec.pdf

6 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/behind-the-scenes-newsnight-

new-show-blows-the-lid-on-the-lack-of-racial-diversity-on-the-bbc-a6688291.html

7 http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/communications-committee/bbc-charter-renewal-public-purposes-and-licence-fee/written/21757.pdf