BBC attempts to ‘modernise’ lead to all white news board

The BBC logo

As part of our #FactOfTheMatter series, The Canary can show that the BBC has appointed an all-white News Board. Director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth appointed the new board as part of the BBCs plan to ‘modernise’ the organisation. Not only does this break the BBC‘s own policy on representing ethnic minorities, but the BBC won’t admit to any wrongdoing. In fact, it claims it’s not broken any policy because two are only ‘acting’ members.

A source at BBC News sent The Canary the image below of the new board as they were concerned with its lack of diversity. And we understand why.

Introducing the ‘modern’ BBC:

Unsworth has cut the number of board positions from 11 to eight, and in the process removed one of two BAME representatives at the time. Former editorial director Kamal Ahmed was made redundant in the restructure and as a result the board is not represented by anyone from communities of colour.

Staff questioned whether ethnicity stopped their progression

The BBC‘s own report into its diversity found that not only was there a lack of representation of BAME employees, but that staff questioned whether their ethnicity was the reason they hadn’t progressed.

The report found:

  • The absence of a robust and targeted programme to track and progress high potential BAME talent across the business.
  • A comprehensive and detailed leadership Development and training programme that fully supports the progression of BAME talent.
  • An inconsistent approach across the BBC’s policy and procedures, which permits non- compliance – without compliance, action cannot be taken. Action needs to be taken to ensure greater accountability and to tackle perceptions of favouritism.
  • Inconsistent approach to recruitment protocols which result in restricted pockets of excellence.
  • ƒIn the absence of a consistent constructive and meaningful feedback system BAME employees are left questioning if their ethnicity is the real barrier to their progression.
The BBC broke its own policy

When the report was published, nine recommendations were made, which the BBC said that it had accepted “unconditionally”.

The report recommended that:

  • By the end of 2020 the executive committee and divisional senior leadership teams should each have at least two BAME members.
  • The BBC would introduce a policy that ensures shortlists for all jobs at band E and above to include at least one BAME person.
  • Dramatically increase BAME representation across our interview panels backed by performance monitoring.
  • All development and leadership programmes to have significant BAME representation as part of their overall cohort. Inclusive leadership should be added to part of all leadership programmes.
  • Accountability for Diversity and Inclusion targets and BAME career progression should be incorporated into senior leadership team objectives and progression reviews. Progress should be outlined as part of future annual reports. Build a solid and sustainable BAME mid and senior leadership pipeline. As part of this, there should be development programmes for candidates, backed by robust succession planning across the BBC. This should be in place by the end of the financial year.
  • The Executive Committee should undertake a review of staff rotation to broaden the experience and knowledge base and explore what else can be done to make the BBC workforce more agile.
  • Develop specific action plans based on further analysis of all divisions with less than 10% BAME representation or below par employee survey results including, Radio, Newsrooms, Newsgathering, English Regions and the World Service.
  • Cultural awareness training should be compulsory for all team managers. This should be in addition to the current mandated Unconscious Bias training programme.
  • The BBC should introduce a ‘Statement of Intent’ on Diversity and Inclusion. All staff would be required to abide by it. The statement should be published alongside the BBC’s Annual Report.

By appointing the new board, the BBC has broken its own policy, as it doesn’t have a minimum of two BAME members – or any for that matter.

The Canary contacted the BBC for comment and received the following response:

The final membership of the BBC News Board has not been announced. Two out of the eight posts – a quarter – are currently vacant.

The ‘vacant’ positions the BBC is referring to are acting HR director Kirsty Lee and acting senior controller, news international services Mary Hockaday. The BBC has confirmed that they’re ‘acting’ members of the board but has not confirmed if it’s actively recruiting for these roles. Because of this, it’s not clear when the BBC will be able to finalise the News Board.

Regardless of whether the board has ‘acting’ members is not the point. The point is that the BBC has not only failed to implement the recommendations from its own investigation but that in the process it’s cultivating an environment that its staff are concerned about.

Featured Image Tara Hunt – Flickr

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