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BBC to set "bold targets" for diversity

18 March 2016

The BBC is to introduce tough targets and new methods of recruitment in order to improve its record of Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation in its workforce.

Tunde Ogungbesan, the BBC's head of diversity, inclusion and succession, said he intended to make far-reaching and fundamental changes to the culture of the corporation to improve on and off-screen diversity.

He joined the BBC last year after five years at Shell where he was responsible for its global diversity and inclusion strategy.

Speaking at an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the NUJ's George Viner Memorial Foundation, which awards bursaries to BAME journalism students, Tunde Ogungbesan said:

 "When I joined it occurred to me that I didn't actually watch the BBC and when I started to look at programmes on BBC1 and BBC2, I realised why; it didn't reflect my reality."

He said the statistics showed that 13.4 per cent of the BBC's employees are BAME; the overall statistic for the UK population is 11.9 per cent. However, the main places where it recruits, London, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and Birmingham have much higher proportions than the national average.

He said since working as the BBC he "feels like a black man" – it never felt an issue when he was working for Shell. "Since coming into New Broadcasting House, I suddenly found I was a black man," he said.

Tunde Ogungbesan said he would change the culture by introducing training which explored unconscious bias and said there were ways during the recruitment process, such as removing people's names and universities from application forms, which can reduce bias.

Introducing the event, Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"In the past 30 years the charity has provided bursaries which have helped more than 200 BAME students to get a first step on the ladder of a media career, by providing funding for their courses and setting up a range of tailored work experience opportunities, including at the BBC. Many of our scholars have gone on to successful careers and it is good to see some of them here tonight."

Keynote speaker Adnan Nawaz, is a presenter on BBC World News and the BBC News channel. He was born in Pakistan, but has lived in the Philippines, Italy, France, the USA and Chile. He said getting a job in journalism is tough for everyone – it is very competitive. To get on you have to make sure you keep up with your contacts, persevere and make your own luck. He said: "I believe I succeeded because of my desire; I wanted it a lot."

He has had plenty of experience of people in the industry making assumptions because of his race. When he stared as a sports journalist he was given basketball to cover and it was assumed he would want to work for the Asian Network. But he also believes having a different background to the prevalent white, middle-class staff member can be an advantage. "We can bring in new angles and different experiences to a story," he said.

Robin Elias, managing editor ITV news, said that media bosses do "get" diversity. He said:

"ITV is a mass audience channel and if we ignored the fastest growing group among our viewers then we would be mad. As well as the moral and social reasons for having a diverse workforce, there has always been a strong business case."

When later tackled during questions from the audience on retention of BAME staff, he admitted that anecdotally it was a problem and that ITV needed to research what was causing people to leave.

Kuba Shand-Baptiste, who is studying a MA in newspaper journalism at City University, London, joined the platform to represent this year's five George Viner scholars. She said the world of journalism can be incredibly intimidating, exclusive and elitist. She said she would never have got where she was without the financial support and the confidence the award has given her. She said:

"There are barriers for working class and BAME people who just can't afford the fees and are not part of the right networks. On my course there six people of colour and five of them are there on a bursary. People say that journalism is a tool to give people a voice, but if people from different backgrounds can't get into journalism their voices will not be heard."

The other scholars included Nicola Chinedu Eyidah who is studying the NCTJ multimedia diploma at News Associates. She said: "When I was young all we had was Trevor McDonald and then Moira Stewart turned on the BBC. Every time we saw someone on TV who was BAME we would cheer." She is enjoying her course, despite the hard work, and is hoping for a career in radio.

Jenna Adae is studying the NCTJ diploma in digital journalism at News Associates in London.

Kemi Alemoru is studying an MA in magazine journalism at City University London. She studied English and linguistics at Sheffield University. She said: "I have always loved reading magazines and realised that if I wanted a job working on one I would have to move to London where most of them are published. Without the George Viner grant, that would not have been possible. I have enjoyed every minute of it so far. If you work as hard as this and still have a smile on your face you must be doing the right thing." And her work experience on Marie Claire magazine, she said, lived up to her dreams.

Peter Yeung is studying an MA in interactive journalism at City University. Since starting the course, his writing has appeared in the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent and Times and he is hoping to take up a placement at the BBC. He became interested in journalism after reading a copy of the Independent as his friend's house when he was 14.  He started to write and while at SOAS University, London, studying social anthropology, wrote for the London Student. He is now enjoying his course, particularly data journalism and looking at how technology can be used for the journalism of the future. He said being a member of the NUJ had been essential for networking and getting advice.

Tags: , george viner memorial fund, bbc, itv, itn, bame, diversity, equality, Tunde Ogungbesan, Adan Nawaz, robin elias, students