BBC presenter says ‘too many white colleagues’ affects his mental health
BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Nihal Arthanayake says an overwhemlingly “white” work force has an impact on his mental health.
Speaking to a journalism diversity conference on Wednesday, he said there are no Muslim workers involved in the “senior editorial process” at Radio 5 Live. He said: “It’s really affecting me that I walk in and all I see is white people.”
He claims his colleagues’ response when he revealed this was to reply defensively and say they were not being racist. But he says that this was missing the point, reports The Telegraph.
At the Journalism Diversity Fund (JDF) conference held at Media City in Salford, he continued: “I’ve seen a lot of people leave this building because they couldn’t deal with the culture.”
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Arthanayake said others found they had to be a certain type of person to progress at the BBC. He said the “hardest thing” is to walk into a room at work and see “nobody looks like you”.
He added: “If you want journalists to progress, they have to be who they are. I don’t think there’s a single Muslim involved in the senior editorial processes.
“The hardest thing is to walk into a room, look around and nobody looks like you.”
The presenter was talking during an on-stage interview with Jo Adetunji, editor of The Conversation, at the JDF’s annual equality, diversity and inclusion conference organised by the National Council for the Training of Journalists. The JDF awards bursaries to aspiring journalists from backgrounds who do not have the financial means to pay for their training.
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Arthanayake also said he has noticed a difference in attitudes since moving north after living in London for two decades. He explained: “Since moving up here, being called the p-word – that didn’t happen in London. You’d get a slap for that in London, not even from me.”
Following the interview, Cheryl Varley, a BBC Radio 5 Live producer, said the organisation is committed to tackling the lack of diversity in its newsrooms. After inviting the JDF bursary recipients for a tour of the newsroom at the end of the conference, she told them: “The BBC needs you a lot more than you need them because if we do not represent our audience, the future for the BBC is grim.”
The BBC has not commented on Arthanayake’s claims.
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