Panellists clash over TV industry diversity

The session on diversity had the strange title of ‘Diversity is a
Drag’. This turned out to be self fulfilling, leaving a couple of
panelists and some members of the audience bored and angry.

The
debate kicked off with a rudimentary film made by Rod Liddle, in which
he made a fag-wielding, beerswilling argument that the industry should
stop talking about diversity altogether, throw out “tick box
policies” and rely on television to exist as a meritocracy.

But
fellow panelist Yolande Beckles – a broadcaster and diversity
consultant for a range of industries – said she was infuriated by such
a theory: “If we’d done nothing up until now then the industry would
still be ‘hideously white’

as Greg Dyke famously described the BBC when he was director general.”

Beckles
went on to attack panelist Simon Shaps, chief executive of Granada and
chairman of the Cultural Diversity Network, a body set up in 2000 to
change the industry so that it represented, on and off screen, the
cultural diversity of the population.

She asked: “What did he have to say? We
didn’t hear anything about what the CDN had been doing, how it had
changed the industry and what it plans to do in the future.”

Beckles
continued: “There is lots of diversity in the broadcast industry but
the higher echelons of the organisations are predominantly male and
white.

There aren’t the wealth of ethnic minorities that cascade across lower levels of the industry.

“Diversity
is not a drag, it is an area which provides the industry with a wealth
of opportunity which is worth exploring. The debate was stuck on old
issues and didn’t move on to talking about solutions that are tried and
tested in other industries.

“I’m about to start working at the
BBC and if I find that I’m working in an all-white environment then I’m
going to feel alienated and will have something to say about it.”

Institute
of Ideas director Clare Fox chaired the session and concluded by saying
that she thought it had been a “refreshing discussion” as panellists
had been honest and weren’t afraid to speak their minds.

But at
one point it seemed to get a bit too honest when Channel 4 News
presenter Krishnan Guru Murthy launched a personal attack on one of the
panellists.

After disagreeing with Hardeep Singh Kohli, writer
and star of new comedy Meet the Magoons, he told him he thought he was
“a useful idiot on the panel”.

Singh Kohli immediately took
offence, and Guru Murthy was seen searching around the conference
centre afterwards, looking for him.

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