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BMC general meeting, 2018

8 June 2018

If we keep quiet they think the problem has gone away, said Faisal Qureshi, chair of Bectu's Black Members' Committee.

His union, together with the NUJ as members of the Federation of Entertainment Unions, works to challenge racism and improve the recruitment of black workers in the media and creative industries. Initiatives have come and gone, but latest figures show that only 4 per cent of the industry has a BAME background, he said.

As guest speaker at the NUJ's Black Members' Council general meeting, he said:

"We were involved in the setting up of Move On Up which gave BAME freelances the opportunity of meeting commissioning editors and top executives across TV, radio and film. Many of those who took part went on get jobs in the industry, but many of them don't stay. They find barriers to progression and in frustration they leave.
"That is why we have to keep up the pressure. We have to keep shouting. But to bring about change we need proper data and figures at a programme level. That is why the unions have boycotted Project Diamond, the broadcasting industry's diversity initiative, because they have refused to provide that level of transparency."

When figures were previously released, he said, which revealed that the Hull Truck Company was 100 per cent white, the Lloyd Webber Foundation provided a grant to help it put in policies to recruit more BAME performers and technicians.

Marc Wadsworth, the NUJ BMC's chair, introduced the evening by giving the highlights of the BMC 2016-18 report which set out the work carried out by the council. He said that stories such as the Grenfell Towers fire and the killing of Mark Duggan proved why it was so important to have more black journalists in newsrooms. He said:

"These stories were being written by people who do not look like me and who have no connection with the communities they are writing about."

He said it had been a busy time since the last general meeting. Brexit had "unleased a wave of racist attacks and xenophobia stoked up by scaremongering politicians and sections of the media".

Fatima Manji, Claudia Jones
Fatima Manji    

The BMC had organised a range of events. The prestigious Claudia Jones lectures were delivered by Channel 4's Fatima Manji and shadow home secretary Diane Abbot. Fatima had been attacked by former Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie for being on camera in a headscarf "when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim".

He was roundly condemned by the NUJ and Marc praised Fatima for coming out and fighting her corner. In her lecture she told the packed room at Channel 4's headquarters: "It was incitement to hatred."  

Diane Abbott recalled that in her career as a researcher and journalist in broadcasting, she was about the only black face in the newsroom. Thirty years later, as a high-profile politician being interviewed in numerous television and radio studios, not much had changed, in particular with the people in positions of influence – those who choose the stories and running order – being overwhelmingly white. “There may be more black and brown faces on the screen these days, but those with power, the people who make all the decisions on which stories are chosen and how they are framed, are white journalists from privileged backgrounds,” she said.

At the TUC's Black Workers' Conference, the council organised a fringe meeting about youth violence and it helped the union with its submission to the Mayor of London's consultation on how to improve workforce diversity in the capital.  NUJ has a diamond TUC black workers' conference.

The meeting affirmed its support for motions passed at DM on Project Diamond, the Grenfell Towers disaster and Windrush scandal.

Marc Wadsworth thanked Natasha Morris, the council's servicing officer and the campaigns team for their work and gave praise to his "energetic and supportive" vice-chair Tony Adams. He also gave tribute to Lionel Morrison, the union's first black president who died in 2016 and said his report was dedicated to Lionel's memory.


Tags: , black members' council, BMC, equality, grenfell tower, windrush, project diamond, fatima manji, diane abbot, lionel morrison, Faisal Qureshi