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Date: 2022-07-03 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00010729


It’s time to smash the cosy Question Time chumocracy ... The BBC needs to start reflecting the people who pay for it – and that means doing more than just having Diane Abbott on the TV now and again


Peter Burgess

It’s time to smash the cosy Question Time chumocracy David Lammy The BBC needs to start reflecting the people who pay for it – and that means doing more than just having Diane Abbott on the TV now and again Question Time ‘It is not acceptable to lump all black and brown people together as one “minority” group and think the job is done.’ Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Friday 4 December 2015 11.02 EST Last modified on Saturday 5 December 2015 15.55 EST Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Shares 1,200 Comments 706 Save for later Not every white person thinks the same: Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon and Nick Griffin share not much more than a skin colour. There are class, gender, cultural, political, national and religious differences that are far more powerful than ethnic similarities. Everyone, of course, realises this – not least the media. Watch a programme such as Question Time and you will see a wide range of white panellists representing the wide range of views that white people in the UK hold. Why, then, is the same civility not extended to Britain’s ethnic minorities? Instead, the select few BAME (Black Asian minority ethnic) “representatives” are wheeled out again and again as if somehow they alone who speak for Britain’s 8.1 million ethnic minority citizens. Here’s an open secret: they don’t. Political views are just as broad and diverse among people of colour as they are among white citizens. It is worrying that this still needs pointing out. David Lammy says 60% of Question Time panels are all-white Read more But if its political flagship show is anything to go by, the BBC doesn’t seem to understand this. The figures speak for themselves: since 2010, almost two-thirds of Question Time shows have featured all-white panels. In all of the episodes so far this year, just two black people have been panellists. There is also a disturbing lack of diversity within the BAME guests that Question Time chooses to include. It is not acceptable to lump all black and brown people together as one “minority” group and think the job is done, without recognising the vast differences within Britain’s ethnic minority citizenry. Clearly the BBC is failing to grasp this simple fact. Within the meagre 9.2% of Question Time slots filled by a BAME panellist, there is a staggering lack of diversity. Black women have appeared just 16 times in five years, and 12 of those appearances have been made by Diane Abbott. Another two appearances were by South African black female politicians during the Question Time South Africa special in 2013. Bonnie Greer has appeared twice. There are about 1 million black women in Britain. Labour MP Diane Abbott. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Labour MP Diane Abbott. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters Similarly, almost 50% of the appearances made by black men were by Chuka Umunna. Together, it means that just two people have filled well over half of the slots given to black guests since 2010. As talented as they are, Diane and Chuka cannot speak for the entirety of Britain’s diverse black communities, just as Alan Johnson and Caroline Flint should not have to be the sole voices of the white working-class. membership If you read The Guardian, join The Guardian Become a Supporter to keep our journalism fearless, open and free from interference. Click here There is a similar lack of diversity when it comes to guests of Asian heritage. Again, the same few names dominate: Mehdi Hasan and Baroness Warsi, for example, have filled almost a third of the guest slots filled by British Asians. Analysis of the available data shows that, of the 63 appearances made by British Asian guests, just four have been by people of Hindu heritage. That’s 0.3% of total guest slots – five times less than we should expect given the UK population is 1.5% Hindu. Britain’s half a million Sikhs are also woefully under-represented. Question Time should not be an echo chamber for the same privileged, establishment voices while denying others the right to take part. As the state broadcaster, the BBC is funded by taxes from all of Britain’s communities. As things stand, too few of those communities are represented in the programmes these funds are spent on. Some will say that none of this matters – that it is just another pointless, political-correctness-gone mad exercise in box-ticking. They will argue that someone’s skin colour or gender or class doesn’t matter as much as what they say. Except, it does. Because for the millions of British people – black women, working-class men, Hindus, Sikhs, people with disabilities – who watch Question Time and note the dearth of people who look like them or reflect their views, it matters a lot. It sends a message that, to them, seems quite clear: this is Britain’s national debate, and it does not include people like you. Why TV’s first interracial kiss is a proud British snog Maurice Mcleod Maurice Mcleod Read more Question Time is the jewel in the BBC’s political crown. Watched by millions, its producers and directors have the power to determine who is allowed to take part in that all-important national political debate. With the power to support one voice comes a responsibility to ensure that others are not silenced. Yet this is what is happening, as Question Time executives use their power to perpetuate the small “chumocracy” of white, patrician, Oxbridge-educated men making the same arguments, and excluding other voices that deserve to be heard. The BBC will no doubt claim the problem is really a lack of potential ethnic minority guests. That argument is downright wrong – and pretty offensive too. There are currently 42 BAME MPs in parliament, but just five have been on Question Time in the past 12 months. 15% of the new Labour MPs elected this year are ethnic minorities, and half of those are women, yet not one has been invited on to the show, while other new MPs have been. What’s more, only three of the five slots on Question Time are filled by politicians. Can we accept that across journalism, sport, music, comedy, film, literature and business, the number of suitable ethnic minority and working-class representatives can be counted on one hand? Really? Excuses are always made, and I’m sure they will be this time too. But there comes a point at which you have to stop defending the indefensible. This is not asking much of the BBC – it should simply start reflecting the communities that fund it.

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