News chiefs in journalism diversity bid

More than 70 editors, executives and senior newsroom staff are to meet journalists from black and minority ethnic backgrounds today as part of an initiative to promote diversity in TV and radio news.

The BBC head of news, Helen Boaden, ITV News editor-in-chief David Mannion, and Press Association editor Jonathan Grun are among the 78 representatives who will be having one-to-one meetings with some 200 ethnic minority journalists as part of the “Move On Up” event, which takes place today at the TUC headquarters in London.

The event is being organised by broadcast union Bectu – which represents 27,000 workers in television, radio, film and theatre – and is supported by the BBC, ITN, the NUJ and the TUC.

Bectu has organised four similar events in the past, but this year’s is the first to be dedicated to journalism, in a bid to address what is seen by the union as an under-representation of black and minority ethnic journalists in broadcasting. It estimates that around 96 per cent of broadcast news professionals in the UK are white.

The Move On Up project director, Janice Turner, said: “We know that the higher up the ladder you look, the fewer black and minority ethnic professionals there are.

“Considering the main concentration of the media is in London, where almost a third of the population is ethnic minority, this is a crucial issue for an industry that seeks to report the news to the whole of society.”

The BBC has fielded 35 news representatives, who will talk individually to black and minority ethnic journalists about how to further their career and make contacts in the industry. They include head of television news Peter Horrocks, radio news chief Stephen Mitchell, and the head of BBC News Interactive, Pete Clifton.

ITV journalists attending include ITV News editor Deborah Turness and IRN editor Jon Godel. Representatives from Sky, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Bloomberg, GCap Media and Global Radio are also on the list of delegates.

The event will be opened by veteran ITV news anchor Sir Trevor McDonald and BBC news presenter George Alagiah.

“When I joined the BBC, I was one of a handful of black or Asian reporters on TV,” said Alagiah, who co-presents the BBC1 Six O’Clock News with Natasha Kaplinsky.

“That’s changed now, but we must not be tempted to assume that the job is done. There are plenty of people out there, people of colour and talent who feel the broadcast industry is not interested in them.”

The Move On Up event coincides with the publication today of a new report, which claims ethnic minority workers and those from poorer backgrounds find it difficult to get jobs in London’s television industry because of recruitment and employment practices, a new report claims.

A study by the TUC found that the industry tended to recruit from within “limited” cultural circles, with a workforce largely drawn from white people and those with high-income backgrounds.

Many young people interviewed for the report complained that media training courses left them ill-prepared for the world of work.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “To make matters worse, getting a foot in the door is often dependent on contacts within the industry, something that many youngsters from low-income or ethnic minority backgrounds simply won’t have.

“That, combined with the fact that many will have to work for nothing for their first few jobs, means it’s no small wonder that the industry currently looks the way it does.”

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