Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

All White on the Night

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

All White on the Night

Article excerpt

What do Doctor Who, Sherlock and the team captains of Have I Got News for You have in common? Here's a clue: they have the same thing in common with the ITV FA Cup Final panel, all the presenters on Newsnight and the commentators on Test Match Special. They are all white.

This month Lenny Henry attacked the whiteness of this year's Baftas. The awards, he said, were a disgrace for not celebrating black talent. "There weren't any black people at the Baftas; there was no black talent," Henry told the Daily Telegraph on 13 May. "In zoo years' time, our children are going to look back to now and say: 'Remember that really weird period when there weren't any black people in any programmes?' It's unthinkable, but now we're having to live through it." He is absolutely right. Out of 31 nominations or special awards for individual categories, 31 went to white actors and performers.

The Baftas are by no means exceptional. Take the peak-time programmes on a recent Friday. On BBC1 was The One Show (two white presenters), followed by A Question of Sport (white presenter and six white panellists), Would I Lie to You? (white presenter and six white panellists), Have I Got News for You (white presenter and four white panellists) and The Graham Norton Show (white host and four white guests). On BB Cat it was Gardeners' World (two white presenters) and QI (white presenter and four white comedians), followed by Newsnight (white presenter).

It's the same story wherever you look. Whether it's Call the Midwife or Broadchurch, Top Gear or Match of the Day, the presenters, guests and main leads are white. Do you like arts programmes? Whether it's Melvyn Bragg or Alan Yentob, Andrew Graham-Dixon or Howard Goodall, Mark Kermode or Jools Holland, the presenter is white. Every major sports presenter and commentator is white, though there are one or two black football and athletics pundits, and the occasional black cricket commentator if the West Indies are touring. …

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