A new survey has revealed that ethnic minorities are still “largely absent" from a lot of British media houses especially in senior executive roles, opinion or column pages, and staff jobs.
New Statesman magazine conducted the survey in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence verdict and Diana Abbott’s tweet.
The survey showed: 0 national newspaper editors are non-white; 0 national newspaper political editors are non-white; one of the 100 most important media people in The Guardian’s 2011 guide was not white; and two of the 99 named witnesses in the current Leves on inquiry into the press are from ethnic backgrounds.
The magazine also surveyed the main comment pages of selected newspapers in the week between Monday 5th and Sunday 11th December 2011 to count the number of non-white writers who appeared. It emerged that three newspapers did not have a single non-white writer on the comment pages and five non-white writers have a regular weekly fixed column in the British broadsheet press.
By looking at the number of non-white writers compared to the total number of writers in each mainstream publication (including Sunday sister publications), three didn’t have any non-white writers. These were The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday (0/23); The Daily Telegraph/Sunday Telegraph (0/46); and The Daily Express/Sunday Express (0/22).
The Times/Sunday Times had only two out of 39; The Independent/Independent on Sunday had one out of 34; I had one out of 14; The Guardian/Observer had four out of 48; and The Financial Times had three out of 35.
Mr. Rafael Behr, Chief Political Commentator at the New Statesman questioned whether the Westminster lobby could report fairly on issues of race when they are “almost exclusively white, forty-something men”.
The New Statesman’s senior editor (politics) Mehdi Hasan commented that between 5th and 11th December 2011, “Three of the country’s bestselling newspapers and their Sunday stablemates – the Telegraph, the Mail, the Express – failed to publish a single column by a non-white person. That’s right, not a single one.
"The liberal-left papers did better than their centre-right counterparts but not by much. Over the same seven-day period, four out of 48 columnists in the Guardian/Observer were non-white; for the Independent/Independent on Sunday, it was one out of 34 columnists.”
Hasan asked: “How long can newspaper editors carry on hiring and publishing columnists who have little or no experience of these lives, backgrounds, cultures or faiths?”
He concluded that: "In 2012, 64 years after the arrival of the Empire Windrush on our shores, 36 years after the passage of the third Race Relations Act, 19 years after the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the great British commentariat is, in effect, a mono-racial, monocultural closed shop."
The New Statesman’s survey has highlighted the fact that racial reporting can at times be biased and less positive, especially if one has no insight or background experience in the very communities or faiths they are publishing or writing about.
By Monica Hayward