BBC Director-General Tells MPs: We Are Not Institutionally Racist - Rugby and Daventry Radio Station Midlands UK            

BBC Director-General Tells MPs: We Are Not Institutionally Racist

Written by on September 29, 2020

Article Published on Tuesday September 29, 2020 3:00 PM by

BBC Director-General Tells MPs: We Are Not Institutionally Racist

The new BBC chief has denied the organisation is institutionally racist in front of a Commons committee.

It comes after staffers at the broadcaster labelled it as such in an exclusive, two-part HuffPost UK investigation, leading to follow-up reports across the media and calls for an independent inquiry from MPs.

Director-general Tim Davie gave evidence to the digital, culture, media and sport committee on Tuesday about the work of the corporation.

While grilling him about gender pay and discrimination, John Nicolson – the Scottish National party MP for Ochil and South Perthshire – asked him if the BBC was “institutionally racist”. 

Davie said it was not, though did not explain why, but conceded that there were improvements to be made on diversity.

“I don’t think it’s institutionally racist,” he said. “There has been progress in certain areas – and, by the way, I’m spending an enormous amount of time talking to BAME staff, getting open forums, listening.

“We have made some progress; on screen, I could list all the projects but I think we’ve made some progress. Internally, though, the facts are we now have an organisation that’s over 15% BAME which is reasonable progress but, I think, the biggest problem is leadership in terms of making sure we see BAME leaders in the organisation.

“We’re currently at 12% but that number, if I’m being very honest, is slightly kind to us because in terms of the top of the organisation, in terms of some of the key decision making bodies of the BBC, we haven’t had enough representation.”

Tim Davie addresses the committee in a virtual hearing

Earlier this month, the BBC admitted that it had failed to reach its 2020 target for Black, Asian and minority ethic (BAME) leaders.   

Pressing the BBC chief further on the issue of diversity, Nicolson drew reference to evidence submitted to the committee from the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality, headed up by Simon Albury, and David Olusoga’s McTaggart lecture where he said he was “crushed” by his experiences in the TV industry.

The MP read statements from BBC staffers sent to him which echoed the concerns of racism set out in our exposé.

“We’re fed up by the lack of progress, the racism and constantly having to prove ourselves more than our white colleagues do. They cherry pick those who are compliant for promotion,” one statement read.

Dozens of current and former Black employees from departments across the corporation have given worrying accounts to HuffPost UK ranging from being denied career development opportunities to being bullied and then silenced by an ineffective complaints procedure.

We were also told that morale is at an “all-time low” among Black BBC staff who were banned from publicly supporting Black Lives Matter but watched on as their employer defended its use of the N-word. 

Two weeks ago, Davie expressed an intention to “talk to staff” about these allegations, “go through the whole procedure” and take appropriate action.

Davie was unable to answer the committee when asked how many full-time Black correspondents were on the BBC network – but doubled down on his commitment to making improvements on diversity. 

“I think many staff are tired of the talk from senior leadership – they want to see action. We have to recruit differently,” he said.

“It’s very difficult if you’re coming up as a minority, if you look at the top teams and who’s made it to network, and you don’t see a true diverse group of individuals.

“Therefore every one of the 15 divisional boards within the BBC now have representation from BAME. Now, they happen to be in some cases special advisers but we cannot live with a situation in which we don’t have a diverse group at the top of the BBC.” 

The chief said he is going to write to the committee to confirm how many Black correspondents are on the network, as well as their lawyers’ costs for fighting gender and racial discrimination cases.

The BBC recently came under fire for banning staff from openly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, while spending days refusing to apologise for use of the N-word on air.

Davie told the committee: “Racism is abhorrent and absolutely we stand as the BBC against it, in support of our Black colleagues. Those things are absolutely core to us. [On] Black Lives Matter – clearly there is some debate around the various elements of that, that I think are legitimate.”

“I cannot be as the leader of this organisation more direct than to say that we want to be fully inclusive and absolutely building diversity.

“Bluntly, I think we should look at the overall staff surveys, engagement levels, because frankly you’re always going to find – and I’ve managed many of them – one or two that are not going to be happy within the organisation.”

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BBC Director-General Tells MPs: We Are Not Institutionally Racist
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