• Friday, September 22, 2023


BBC struggles to retain staff from diverse backgrounds

(Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images).

By: Pramod Thomas

THE BBC has admitted that it is struggling to retain employees from black, Asian and ethnic staff members who complained that they were being left at “the bottom of the pecking order”, The Times reported.

During a board meeting in July, BBC directors acknowledged that “one of the key challenges” in meeting diversity and inclusion targets was “the retention of staff once they had been recruited”.

The BBC wants a fifth of its workforce and senior management to be from diverse backgrounds by 2023. At present nearly 16 per cent of BBC employees are black, Asian and minority ethnic, while this drops to 12.6 per cent among top executives.

According to the report, the BBC board agreed to apply a “more systematic approach” to exit interviews to ensure that diverse employees are being properly questioned about their reasons for leaving.

Directors also considered a paper setting out how the broadcaster can achieve its diversity targets.

Diversity targets have been added to the BBC’s “critical projects portfolio”, meaning a monthly report on progress will be supplied to board members.

Retention initiatives introduced by the BBC include giving staff the opportunity to work in another team and learn new skills, and a 12-month “accelerator programme” to help grow a new generation of leaders, The Times report added.

The admission about retention issues comes after The Times saw a transcript from a BBC News “listening session” last year in which black, Asian and ethnic members of staff complained about their career prospects.

“Black people, particularly black women, have always been at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to opportunities,” one employee was quoted as saying by the newspaper. A second person added: “I work hard and every time I ask my bosses how can I progress, move ahead and . . . increase my pay, I have always been fobbed off.”

The BBC board minutes follow disquiet over why Marcus Ryder, voted as one of Britain’s most influential black figures, was not appointed as executive editor of Radio 1 and Asian Network’s news bulletins despite special efforts being made to recruit him.

Sources said concerns were expressed about Ryder’s appointment because of his record as a prominent diversity champion. However, the BBC denied that Ryder’s hire was vetoed by any senior executive.

Ryder has since held constructive talks with Tim Davie, the BBC director-general, but has warned that journalists of colour are scared of speaking out about workplace issues for fear of “being blacklisted as a troublemaker”.

This week the BBC and other UK broadcasters agreed to stop using the acronym BAME to refer to black, Asian or minority ethnic people.

A BBC spokesperson told The Times: “We are fully committed to reflecting the diversity of the UK on and off-screen and have set out plans to boost diverse representation and retention this year. These include new ways of identifying diverse talent already working at the BBC and we have provided new opportunities and routes to senior leadership.”

Eastern Eye

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