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Last Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008, 13:48 GMT
TV is too white, Lenny Henry says
Lenny Henry
Lenny Henry criticised some sitcoms of the 1960s and 70s
Comedian Lenny Henry has attacked the lack of ethnic diversity in Britain's broadcasting industry.

"When I started, I was surrounded by a predominantly white workforce, and 32 years later, not a lot has changed," he told the Royal Television Society.

In his own field of television comedy, he added, ethnic minorities were "pitifully underserved".

Last year, BBC executives waived their annual bonuses for failing to meet their full diversity targets.

Henry criticised the so-called "golden age" of television, citing such shows as Till Death Us Do Part and Mind Your Language.

'Xenophobic'

"TV producers of the '60s and '70s missed a great opportunity," he said in London on Thursday.

"Rather than reflect the reality of multi-ethnic Britain, they chose a more xenophobic route - emphasising points of difference instead of similarities."

Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett
Till Death Us Do Part starred Warren Mitchell as bigot Alf Garnett
In a seven-point plan, he encouraged programme-makers to "be bold" in setting targets and appointing ethnic minority staff.

"I'm not talking about cleaners, security guys, scene shifters or anyone wearing a uniform," he added.

"I'm talking about decision makers, producers, directors [and] commissioners."

However, he said advances had been made in children's television and praised the BBC for its "fantastic" range of presenters.

Last year, Cracker writer Jimmy McGovern accused the BBC of being "one of the most racist institutions in England".

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