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TV at risk of apartheid division if diversity not addressed

WARNING: Veteran broadcaster Trevor McDonald warns of risk of 'apartheid' system in media

SIR TREVOR McDonald has warned against an “apartheid” system in the media following calls for laws and funding to address a lack of diversity in the TV industry.

Speaking at the Ad Week Europe conference in London on Monday (Mar 31), McDonald admitted there have been improvements since he became ITN’s first black reporter in the 1970s, but says there is still a lack of BME representation in the media.

He said: "I think BME representation has improved a lot. I'm sure there are many more black and ethnic people on television, especially in the news field.

"I am not sure how long a television station, a profession, can go on if it does not constantly represent the mix of the community. I don't see how you can have a kind of almost apartheid sort of division."

Last month, comedian Lenny Henry spoke out against the “appalling” representation of black and ethnic minority in the industry. He said the situation has "deteriorated badly" with the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic people working in UK television falling by 30.9 per cent between 2006 and 2012.

Henry's proposed ring-fencing money for BME shows and setting targets adapted from the BBC's model that it has used to increase the number of programmes from the nations and regions by 400 per cent.

But McDonald does not agree that quotas are the answer.

He said: “I remember when we started positive diversity classes at ITN with one of my colleagues. If you really wanted to know what happens in these communities, how are you going to do it by just standing outside and not having people who were actually there?

"How are you going to represent people nationally if the people who do your work are not exactly representative of the national picture? I think it's improved an enormous amount. I was the only black face on national television for a very long time. That's not the case anymore."

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