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Racism in British TV equals 'lost generation' of black talent

Systemic racism in British television has forced out a generation of black talent who quit because they were being ignored or worn down by their experiences, broadcast industry’s leaders have been told. 

David_Olusoga_Photograph_Andrew Hayes-Watkins_BBC

Systemic racism in British television has forced out a generation of black talent who quit because they were being ignored or worn down by their experiences, broadcast industry’s leaders have been told. 

In a devastating critique, the prominent broadcaster and historian David Olusoga said the impact of this “lost generation” could be seen in unrepresentative programmes that failed to reflect modern Britain.

Delivering the keynote MacTaggart lecture at the virtual edition of the Edinburgh television festival, Olusoga said a recent incident where the BBC defended the decision to use the N-word on air had “genuinely damaged faith in the BBC among many black people” and would not have happened if there were more senior black staff in newsrooms.

Olusoga, who spent the early part of his television career as a producer, said his own experience of the British television industry had left him feeling so “isolated and disempowered.”  He was later diagnosed with clinical depression.

In 2014 Sir Lenny Henry told an audience at Bafta that black British actors were having to go to the US to build their careers.

In June the BBC committed £100m of its TV budget over the next three years to producing “diverse and inclusive content” and set itself a mandatory target of ensuring that 20% of off-screen talent comes from under-represented groups.

This is an edited article from the Guardian website. Click here to listen to David Olusoga MacTaggart lecture.