June Sarpong (pictured in March in London’s Southbank Center) said her work to reach underrepresented groups would extend beyond blacks and Asians to encompass people of all races who are economically disadvantaged.
The BBC has failed to connect with white working-class audiences and needs to do more to make them feel represented, according to its diversity manager.
June Sarpong said her work to reach underrepresented groups would extend beyond blacks and Asians to include working class communities and their concerns, including immigration.
The presenter made the remarks at a virtual Ofcom summit where she also spoke about being the only black person in the room at BBC lectures.
She said: “A lot of times the BAME audience is very focused, as the BBC does not represent the BAME audience enough, and we are talking about young people.
“But we know that we had serious problems in terms of connection with C2DE [working class] audience and I think it’s about balancing.
“As an advocate for diversity, I always make sure to hit the drum for the working class audience because I come from a working class background, my parents were immigrants, we grew up in a working class community white.
“And I totally understand when it comes to immigration, it’s the community that actually experienced it, and often we don’t have the kind of nuanced debate around these things that we need. “
Miss Sarpong praised new Managing Director Tim Davie for speaking on the need to improve diversity at the BBC.
She said: “Our philosophy is to be for all of us and that means you have to balance opposing views and groups that maybe don’t agree.
“What Tim does is make sure we don’t ignore any part of our audience.
But during the Ofcom Small Screen: Big Debate virtual conference, she said the broadcaster’s survival depends on doing more.
“Now the audience itself is very vocal, and not just from the BBC or broadcasters, but from any institution and business in general,” she said.
“We understand that this is absolutely vital for our success and survival. It’s no longer a good to have, it’s a must.
Miss Sarpong was asked whether media portrayals of Mr Davie – as someone who reversed the decision not to broadcast the lyrics to the traditional hymns of Last Night of the Proms – posed a threat to diversity.
She denied this and said the BBC’s “ethos” is “to be for all of us”.
She added: “In a way, our survival is also at stake and that’s a key part of making sure we’re here for another 100 years. “
The diversity czar also told the conference that she was the only black person in the room during leadership meetings.
The BBC executive, who receives £ 75,000 a year for his three-day-a-week role, is the only black person on an 11-person executive committee.
Asked what she saw around the table in her role, she said: “I see what has been the story of my life, in terms of career… I’m the only one in the room. Nothing new there.
“But the difference was, we weren’t even in the room before, so at least there is someone in the room.
She pointed out that the new BBC rules meant there were at least two people from different backgrounds in each decision-making body.
Although she is the only black cadre on the executive committee, another of its members, Gautam Rangarajan, is also considered to be of ethnic diversity.
The presenter made the remarks at a virtual Ofcom summit where she also spoke about being the only black person in the room at BBC lectures. Pictured: Broadcasting House
Miss Sarpong has previously admitted the company is “far from meeting” its own diversity goals and said it would take “longer than we hoped” to achieve them.
Speaking in August, she said the BBC was diverse at “entry level” but “not enough in terms of middle and top leadership”.
She added that you should see examples of progress from people “from all walks of life and all walks of life.”
It followed the BBC’s announcement that £ 100million of its TV budget was increasing diversity over three years, starting in April 2021.
Comparing the BBC’s target to BAME’s UK workforce of 12%, she told Radio 4’s Media Show: “So in terms of leadership for BAME, 15% is target.
“It will take us longer than we expected to reach it and get there, but I think it’s important.
“It’s important for a number of reasons. When you look at some of the issues that are not only faced by the BBC, but I think broadcasters in general have had, a lot of it has to do with leadership.
“Plus, if we’re going to send the right message to the rest of the organization in terms of the talents that flow through it, they need to be able to see examples of progress from people from all walks of life and all walks of life. “
BBC is driving viewers away by being too London-centric and not diverse enough, admits new chef Tim Davie
In a candid speech last month, the new BBC CEO Tim Davie said some parts of the country “don’t necessarily think the broadcaster is for them”
By Paul Revoir for the Daily Mail and Amie Gordon for MailOnline
Tim Davie admitted that the BBC’s lack of diversity has left it too London-centric and has led viewers to feel unrepresented.
Mr Davie said if the broadcaster’s bosses did not respect diversity levels, they would not progress.
And when asked if there were any “underserved” audiences, he replied, “Absolutely. But the BBC doesn’t deliver the same to everyone.
“There are audiences in a diverse Britain who feel a bit further from us. “
“I think there is something about metro organizations, or the way you hire, that can feel a bit removed from part of the population. “
He added that there were “some parts of the country”, not just because of age, “who don’t necessarily think the BBC is for them”.
In a frank discussion at the Royal Television Society last month, Mr Davie also discussed other issues facing the company.
He said he should “renew our vows” for fairness, prioritize his “bigger goal” and avoid chasing Twitter followers by being “outrageous.”
It came as Mr Davie admitted that removing millions over the age of 75 from their free TV licenses was “not a great look” for the company.
Mr Davie has defended the move to charge the £ 157.50 tax to more than three million households, with Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday accusing the company of ‘stealing the Ovaltine from retirees’ nighttime drink “.