Artillery Row

Black to Front

Diversity is everywhere, but the BBC, the NHS, the Police and the Bank of England want more

Margaret Thatcher changed Britain. While I am certainly not a staunch Thatcherite, her government must be congratulated for the creation of Channel 4. Launched in 1982, the new 24 hour terrestrial TV channel transformed the cultural landscape and gave an important voice to the young — who often felt left behind and abandoned. It was set up to be disruptive. And it certainly achieved that.

Living up to its promise, in 1993 the channel launched The Word — a late-night tv show soaked in counter-culture rebellion featuring the latest groundbreaking bands. Although It is sadly known for introducing Terry Christian to the world, it was the chaos behind the scenes that made the show truly memorable. Who could forget Nirvana’s legendary performance or the “incident” when L7 played live (Google it). While in true disruptive style, The Comic Strip Presents… helped launch the careers of anarchic comedians Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson. 

However, a lot has changed in recent years. The channel appears to have undergone a radical transformation. The death of George Floyd in the United States has helped catapult the racial justice narrative into the mainstream. All of a sudden identity politics took hold. Now every conceivable institution is falling over themselves in an effort to appear as diverse and inclusive as possible. And Channel 4 is no exception. The channel that was once designed to give a voice to the voiceless is now very much mainstream and middle-class — quoting verbatim the latest issues from the social justice handbook.

What good are BAME officers when knife crime is exploding all across London?

For this reason, Channel 4 has adopted a more progressive stance on issues such as race and ethnicity.

As part of their “Black to Front” campaign, the network recently broadcast an entire day’s worth of programming with an aim to “…improve Black representation on-screen and more widely in the TV industry”. In keeping with the disruptive narrative, for twenty four hours, its original programming was disrupted so its biggest shows could be led by black presenters. 

Personally I enjoyed seeing Sir Trevor McDonald host Countdown — in my honest opinion a far better host than Anne Robinson. Teen drama Hollyoaks — which is already the wokest show on television- aired a sixty minute special featuring an all-BAME cast. They also ramped up the nostalgia —  90’s comedy Desmond’s had me chuckling, although that was more to do with the acting than anything else. And the trip down memory lane was complete when — after nearly twenty years off-air — the Big Breakfast made a riotous return. Although for purposes of true equity, I felt let down when I realised they hadn’t replaced Zig and Zag with black puppets.

Speaking about the event, Director of Programmes Ian Katz said “Channel 4 was created to give voice to underrepresented parts of society…providing a focal point for our efforts to drive up on and off screen representation…”

Turn on any TV in Britain and you’ll have ample evidence that these groups are not underrepresented. You’re likely to find that the proportion of ethnic minorities either starring in or involved in its production are representative of wider demographic statistics —  in some cases even more diverse than the actual population as a whole.

According to the Creative Diversity Network’s recent report, all minorities, be it BAME, transgender or gay are all represented on a par with, or above the demographic make up of the nation. When it comes to on-screen representation across all TV channels, the BAME community are better represented than you would think: whilst making up roughly 13 per cent of the population, on-screen this figure stands at 22 per cent.

The NHS has 165 equality and diversity staff but the NHS is already diverse

And it is hardly a bastion of white supremacy behind the scenes. According to a 2019 Ofcom report, 13 per cent of TV workers are BAME — roughly comparable to the ethnic composition of the country.

Nor are we bereft of diverse faces when you get up and put the kettle on during the ad breaks.  

According to a 2018 study into diversity in advertising, 25 per cent of people appearing in marketing campaigns are from a BAME background. When it comes to UK ad agencies, 13.8 per cent of workers are BAME — once again, in line with the demographics of the UK. 

Why have so many of our institutions fallen under the spell of diversity? I can offer one possible reason: money. 

Under the control of June Sarpong, the BBC are the progenitors of all things woke. As director of creative diversity, her three day a week role and £267,000 annual salary involves making the corporation as diverse as possible. With a £100 million diversity and inclusion budget at her disposal, the corporation produces a vast amount of progressive content. “Bameshow” is a radio 4 panel show with a difference — only BAME comedians are allowed to apply. It would appear the BBC like Channel 4 have discovered the panacea to fix systemic racism — racial segregation.

According to the website “black to front” wishes to “amplify the conversations around representation and diversity in the industry” So It would be interesting to hear what a new up and coming non-BAME comedian thinks of this. 

Even our finest boys in blue can’t escape the woke march through the institutions.

In an interview with LBC, Cressida Dick stressed the importance of a diverse police force. Addressing a caller’s question regarding the recruitment of BAME officers, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police proudly stated there are 8,000 officers and staff in the Met who are BAME — 5,000 of which are officers. I’m sorry, but what good are BAME officers when knife crime is exploding all across London? I don’t care what colour the officer is, just that they can reduce crime and keep the streets safe. It would be like Chester Zoo proudly proclaiming they have a dozen hispanic zookeepers when there’s a Lion in the car park ripping the arms off a small child.

Thinking predominantly in racial terms has more than a hint of David Duke about it

The NHS  has 165 equality and diversity staff with an annual cost of more than £6.8 million. This apparently isn’t enough. It recently came to light that the NHS were advertising for equality, diversity and inclusion managers. With a salary of over £75,000, that’s double that of a nurse or newly qualified junior doctor.

The problem is — yep, you’ve guessed it — the NHS is already diverse. One in five of the NHS’s workforce is BAME — 30 per cent of all medical staff are Asian, compared to 50 per cent of medical staff who are white. When you consider 86 per cent of the population is white and just 7.5 per cent asian we have diversity already. But perhaps there is no point at which an institution can become diverse enough? 

One such institution is the Bank of England. They are aiming for between 18 to 20 per cent of its senior managers to be BAME — roughly six per centage points higher than current demographics would imply. 

Diversity in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. But thinking predominantly in racial terms has more than a hint of David Duke about it. When it comes to meaningful diversity, diversity of opinion is more important. It has almost become an act of heresy within some circles to suggest that when it comes to selecting the best people, race should be insignificant. As a liberal, I judge talent not by skin colour but by character, comportment and talent. As with everything to do with identity politics, it creates division rather than erasing it. But this neurotic obsession with race is not only divisive, it is extremely patronising — how would you feel if you found out your job was based on filling a diversity quota? 

Britain has many wonderful and talented BAME actors and presenters. But to contrive a TV schedule so as to feature only people from a minority background is as illiberal as any other program masquerading as “inclusive”. It is a form of 21st century progressive racism.

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