Ethnic minorities 'largely absent' from British media

Ethnic minorities remain ‘largely absent” from opinion pages, senior executive roles and staff jobs within the British media, according to statistics compiled by New Statesman.

The magazine undertook the research in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence verdict and Diane Abbott’s controversial tweet last week, which it said had put racism ‘at the top of the political agenda”.

In a special report in this week’s magazine it notes that:

  • 2 of the 99 named witnesses at the Leveson inquiry into the press are from ethnic minorities
  • 1 of the 100 most important media people in the Guardian’s 2011 guide was not white
  • 0 national newspaper editors are non-white
  • 0 national newspaper political editors are non-white

The New Statesman (which like Press Gazette part of the Progressive Media Group) also surveyed the main comment pages of selected newspapers from 5-11 December to count the number of non-white writers.

It found that three newspapers did not have a single non-white writer on their comment pages and that only five non-white writers have a regular weekly column among the broadsheets.

Non-white writers/total number of writers (including Sunday sister publications):

  • The Times/Sunday Times: 2/39
  • The Independent/Independent on Sunday: 1/34
  • I: 1/14
  • The Guardian/Observer: 4/48
  • The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday: 0/23
  • The Daily Telegraph/Sunday Telegraph: 0/46
  • The Daily Express/Sunday Express: 0/22
  • The Financial Times: 3/35

In contrast, the New Statesman quotes figures published by the Office for National Statistics for 2009 which showed the non-white population of England and Wales stood at 16.7 per cent, or one in six people.

‘White men sitting in all-white newsrooms’

The magazine’s chief political commentator Rafael Behr, The Observer’s former chief leader, questioned whether the Westminster lobby could report fairly on issues of race when they are ‘almost exclusively white, forty-something men”.

He notes that while newspapers were keen to report the decline of racism after Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted for the murder of Stephen Lawrence, ‘there was something mildly ridiculous about a bunch of white men sitting in all-white newsrooms, asking white journalists on their staff if they knew any black people who might want to write about how racism is no longer such an issue”.

He claims the issue surfaced again following Diane Abbot’s ‘divide & rule” tweet last week, claiming that ‘you could taste the relish of white men enjoying the opportunity to feel themselves the victims, for once, of racism, as if a single casual generatlisation about the cultural and ethnic majority reset the dial of all grievance to zero: generations of prejudice v one nasty remark on the internet”.

Meanwhile, the New Statesman’s senior editor (politics) Mehdi Hasan said that between December 5-11: ‘Three of the country’s bestselling newspapers and their Sunday stablemates – the Telegraph, the Mail, the Express – failed to publish a single column by a non-white person. That’s right, not a single one.

“The liberal-left papers did better than their centre-right counterparts but not by much. Over the same seven-day period, four out of 48 columnists in the Guardian/Observer were non-white; for the Independent/Independent on Sunday, it was one out of 34 columnists.

Hasan added: ‘How long can newspaper editors carry on hiring and publishing columnists who have little or no experience of these lives, backgrounds, cultures or faiths?

“In 2012, 64 years after the arrival of the Empire Windrush on our shores, 36 years after the passage of the third Race Relations Act, 19 years after the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the great British commentariat is, in effect, a mono-racial, monocultural closed shop.”

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