London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via PressGazette
The diversity policies of UK public broadcaster the BBC have come under scrutiny after a presenter for its Radio 4 service made a controversial claim he was dropped from his role to make more room for women and ethnic minority candidates, the Press Gazette reports.
Radio host Jon Holmes, a journalist who has also written travel pieces for the Sunday Times paper, tweeted this week “Sad to announce I’ve been axed from @BBCNowShow as ‘we want to recast with more women and diversity’ Tsk. And I didn’t even punch a producer”. He made reference to an infamous incident where another former BBC employee, Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson was sacked after assaulting the show’s producer after not receiving a steak dinner at a hotel whilst filming.
The BBC Now Show is a programme consisting of comedy sketches and satire. After his dismissal and tweet, Holmes vented his frustration further in an opinion article written for the Mail on Sunday and alleged he was the victim of reverse discrimination, racism and sexism. He wrote “Should I, as a white man (through no fault of my own), be fired from my job because I am a white man? Arguably, yes. You may well think I’m crap on The Now Show, and that’s fine, but to be told it’s because I’m the wrong sex and colour? I’m just not sure that’s helpful to anyone’s cause.”
Holmes added he “understands and agrees with all things BAME [Black Asian and minority ethnic]” and said speaking out about losing his job was not “sour grapes”.
He also claimed that after his dismissal he spoke to several presenters, actors and others involved in the broadcasting industry, who also claimed they were turned down for auditions and jobs because the hirers were looking to give the role to an ‘Asian person’.
Holmes added: “I love the BBC and everyone I’ve ever met and worked with – whatever their sex, creed or colour – is doing the best they can and just trying to get on and do the right thing. But even they are all privately saying it’s all got a bit out of hand.”
However the BBC claimed Holmes was not dismissed because of his background or gender. They state that he was let go as he had been a presenter for 18 years at the broadcaster and they wanted to offer a chance for a newer comic.
A BBC spokesperson said: “While the Government’s new charter for the BBC does set us diversity targets, we always hire presenters on merit.
“We’d like to thank both Jon Holmes and Mitch Benn for their contributions, but – as we explained almost a week ago when the story first appeared in newspapers – our comedy shows are constantly evolving and it was simply time to create opportunities for new regulars when The Now Show returns this autumn.”
The BBC has been criticised in the past for not doing enough to represent non-majority voices in both its programming and its workforce, although to its credit, it runs several stations geared towards different regions, cultures and age groups.
In April 2016, the BBC launched a new diversity plan, with its aim of having “a workforce at least as diverse, if not more so, than any other in the industry” by 2020. The BBC has said it wants to make sure 15 per cent of on-screen staff are BAME, that women make up 50 per cent its workforce and that LGBT people are 8 per cent.