More proof the media don't care about black stories

By Lester Holloway, Policy Officer for V4CE

There’s been a lot of debate recently about diversity, or lack of it, in the media. 
 
Comments by Lenny Henry about the lack of BME people in broadcasting, and the more historical perspective of former TV producer Farrukh Dhondy in The Voice newspaper illustrate not just how far we’ve got to go but how far we’ve slipped back.
 
Another example of this is the complete lack of interest in official figures published last week showing that African and Caribbean communities had seen a fall in employment levels during this economic recovery, while other groups had seen a rise in line with GDP growth.
 
Voice 4 Change England issued a press release (twice) expressing alarm about the Labour Force Survey figures. We pushed this news out through our networks and social media, and made many calls to journalists. 
 
There is absolutely no doubt that a large number of important journalists now know about this story, yet the level of interest can be summarised in one word – ziltch.
 
Only the BBC UK Black network were interested, and our director Kunle Olulode did interviews on Sunday’s African and Caribbean radio shows broadcasting to Derby, Nottingham and Bristol.
 
Yet the fact that only the a small number of specialist black-interest journalists were moved by these startling and shocking figures, published by the Governments’ official bean-counters the Office for National Statistics, showing that a whole community was being excluded from the economic recovery speaks volumes.
 
For me, this was a national media story. Newspapers, TV and radio have devoted acres of newsprint and hours of transmission time to ministers telling us how we are now out of a recession and that one and a half million new jobs have been created.
 
But the Government’s own figures, slipped out quietly on budget day, tell a quite different story. The stats are stark; while white employment has risen every quarter in 2013 in line with GDP growth, African and Caribbean levels of employment fell by 3 per cent in the same period, and black women experienced almost a 6 per cent fall.
 
Clearly the recovery is excluding a whole section of society, and that should be news for everyone not just a small slither of the ‘black media.’
 
The fact that so many national journalists chose to ignore this – and we know that a great many of them saw our press release – is a testament to the fact that they really didn’t rate it as a story.
 
And that can only be because the largely white world of national newsrooms simply didn’t place a news value on it. They were immune from shock and concern, and disregarding of the importance of the story.
 
As Lenny Henry and Farrukh Dhondy point out, our media is lagging well behind the rest of society in diversity. The binning of news that the economic recovery is excluding African and Caribbean’s on a grand scale is but another example of lack of media diversity.
 
Lester Holloway