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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 10:02 GMT 11:02 UK
Is there enough of a racial mix on TV?
Is there enough of a racial mix on TV?
Britain's commercial TV channels are facing criticism for under-representing ethnic minorities in their programmes.

In its annual report, the Independent Television Commission (ITC) said that the lack of ethnic minority stars on screen was "glaring".

The report suggests that representation of ethnic communities is particularly poor in ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5's entertainment programming.

Experts of the ITC say the broadcasters recognize the problem. However, they also note that Channel 4's "excellent" multicultural programmes are rarely shown at peak time.

Are broadcasters doing enough to ensure adequate representation of ethnic minorities on screen?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

If people weren't racist in the first place when hiring people, we wouldn't have this problem

Tom Morris, UK
This is such a stupid argument. If people weren't racist in the first place when hiring people, we wouldn't have this problem. If everyone stopped all this rubbish and treated each other like people, things might start looking up.
Tom Morris, UK

I don't think there are enough white-only programmes. You got stuff like Network East, where is the White guys alternative?
Pete, UK

I agree with the earlier writer. Quality should prevail, not ethnic mix. We are not an equal mix of races in this country and trying to force minorities into all jobs, committees and stages of life in this country is as false as pretending they don't exist. Positive discrimination only achieves a false idea of equality.
Wendy, U.K.

As a white middle-class heterosexual roman-catholic male, I feel that my particular cultural/religious/ethnic group is grossly under-represented in the media!
Paul, England

I think the issue that needs dealing with is not the ethnic makeup of our programming, but the appalling quality of the majority of the programmes. I don't care if characters/presenters are white or non-white, if the standard of programming isn't good enough, I won't be watching either way.
Paul Miles, London, England

All I want is a better distribution of what's already there

Ken, UK
The visual representation has improved in my view but all I want is a better distribution of what's already there. I'd like to see the end of the BBC's patronising "right you've had your two documentaries, your comedy sketch show (usually with Lenny Henry) and your one drama on BBC2 at 10pm and that's your lot for the year" attitude that still exists when it comes to specialist programming. The licence fee money going into that black-only radio station *should* have gone on TV- who assumed I wanted to listen to yet more music- how many pirate stations already do this? Not to mention 7hrs of rap and other forms of black music at the weekend on Radio One! But if we want better parts on TV, we've got to write them.
Ken, UK

I am sick and tired of you white parasites trying to shove us lot into boxes. We live here too! We pay the same taxes, pay for your royal family and as such we have earned the right to be represented in the media as much as the next person. It's about time you started to recognise: the blacks are here to stay and if you don't like it - tough!
Mr Angry, UK

We do see a lot of ethnic faces on our TV screens nowadays. Lots of Muslims and Arab faces in fact. Unfortunately, they nearly all tend to be portrayed as terrorists.
Bilal Patel, London, UK

I belong to a minority ethnic community and I think that these researchers should try something worthwhile. If people (of any race) have ability, they will get a chance on TV and/or anywhere they want. The TV channels aren't public services. They are there to hunt the best performers irrespective of their race or colour and as long as they are fair in recruiting people, reasonable and balanced in reporting facts and are entertaining people (which they are supposed to do) - they should be left alone. Are the taxpayers paying for these researchers?
Shahedul Alam, England

While there are several non-white presenters, there are still very few in dramas in soap opera. As a Black woman I noticed this inequality. Especially as the programs are often set in area of Britain which have a mixed population e.g. East London and Manchester.
Penelope, UK

I don't mind the inequality of numbers if that inequality has nothing to do with racial bias

Andre A. Stewart, NYC, USA
The real question here is can the white members of society be trusted to select the best person for the job regardless of skin colour. I don't mind the inequality of numbers if that inequality has nothing to do with racial bias. Here in America we have a situation where companies will not advertise during certain shows because they think that it is not good to associate their product with a show that has black actors. The problem here is your perception of me as a black person, what goes through your mind when you see me in your stores, your banks, on the street and in the office. Many others like me are blamed for the crimes of some worthless criminals who just happen to be black.
Andre A. Stewart, NYC, USA

It's not something I used to ever think about. But, in the last couple of years, I've seen Asians on Blue Peter, Newsround and Watchdog and I was amazed at my feelings. It really gave me a boost. Don't get me wrong, I've never once felt victimised or inadequate as an Asian, but when you see someone of your own nationality, "glamorised" on telly (wow!), it does give you some pride.
Rhetta, UK

It's a matter of perception. If you live in south London you might feel that black people are hugely under-represented on television. If, on the other hand, you happen to live on the Cornish peninsula, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Speaking as someone who is more interested in television quality than in its politically correct representation of minority groups, I really couldn't care less about the ratios represented by our TV channels. And neither, apparently, could they.
Chris B, England

We should be building bridges not walls. How else are we to learn to see?
Clive Dyer, England

I think the statistics of ethnic under-representation is not such an important matter; I agree with the majority on this forum that quality of programmes that matter! However, I would like to emphasise the importance of equal opportunities in application process and in workplace. We just can't ignore the fact that people do get turned down in job-applying and get 'bullied' at workplace due to their race and religion - this is undeniable fact and we need to work to resolve this.
Jamshid, UK

Discriminaction! Why are there no Aussie barmen in Eastenders? In fact when was the last time you saw an Aussie in a show about this country?
Tom, Aussie in London

There are some 'ethnic' news presenters - but these are tokens

Sonny, UK
Ethnic diversity is not well represented on British television. Also, notice how the programme with an ethnic bias is poorly scheduled - both on BBC and C4. Yes, there are some 'ethnic' news presenters - but these are tokens. There are whole fields in TV Production where, I know for certain, minorities are under-represented. I have tried for 10 years to get a foothold in BBC production, without success. I had to acquire TV production experience (e.g. research, script-writing, editing and directing/producing) with minority cable and satellite TV companies, where resources and monetary rewards are limited.
Sonny, UK

Do they really watch the same telly as the rest of us? This persistent pressure and manipulation of the media leads to false representation and is therefore unhealthy in the extreme. What do they want? A fly on the wall documentary of the daily life of a typical inner city mugger to increase the statistics of exposure of "black" people on TV? No, of course not. Do they want to portray a fantasy for public consumption? Hmmm.The vast majority of peoples in this country of ours are not Black, Asian, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese etc.) How far are we meant to dilute our culture for these censors of perception?
Roland Gilmore, England

I've no idea. I've given up watching TV (except for sport). Most of it is total rubbish - whether with an 'acceptable' racial mix or not.
Robert, Wales

I believe that the minorities are well represented on TV. Many of their cultures have whole programs dedicated to them. If there were to be a program dedicated to the white race, and about how good it is to be white, would that not be classed as being racist?
Simon, UK

I can think of two areas where ethnic minorities are over-represented in the media: sport (football in particular), and pop-music. Both are areas of the media which have a high visibility - which goes to balance out the relatively low representation of ethnic minorities in the business, traditional performing-arts, and science-oriented parts of the media.
David Moran, Scotland/Australia

People mustn't forget that in some parts of this country, the only time a local will see a person from an ethnic minority is on TV

People mustn't forget that in some parts of this country, the only time a local will see a person from an ethnic minority is on TV, so it is important that positive images are shown. It would be nice to have a 'representative' proportion of ethnic minorities on TV, but I don't like the idea of having a quota. On the other hand, I do think political correctness is also leading to 'positive discrimination' - I can't remember the last time I saw a male sports news presenter.

Despite having 5 terrestrial channels there are never any programmes/films scheduled on special festival days (Chinese, Indian etc.)
Leila, UK

As a Welshman living in England, I think there should be more Welsh people shown on TV. We're an ethnic minority too, but one which is white, and native to the UK!
Steve Morgan, UK

If we spent our time better than ascertaining colour ratios, weight ratios and whatever other cultural, political, religious or social differences as represented on TV or anywhere else, we would perhaps truly have a better relationship with one another, and not care about such mindless trivialities. Some have struggled for years to achieve true recognition for their talents and abilities, this tokenism we so gladly embrace does nothing but set them right back again.
Craig H, UK

The comments about geography are well founded, I moved from Chester to Lewisham (don't ask!) and the difference couldn't be more startling. However most administrative bodies are based in London and therefore consider that to be representative but there was not a single person of ethnic minority at my school of 1200 so they hardly seemed under represented to me! I am all for programmes aimed towards cultural awareness and issues but care needs to be taken so no group including whites feels stigmatised against.
Alan, UK

Here we go again, the anti-PC brigade huffing and puffing because we might (heaven forbid!) see more black and Asian faces on telly. Honestly, how does that threaten us?
Ben Drake, York, UK

Perceptions depend on where you live and your circumstances.

Amy, UK
I find it hard to tell what the racial mix is in this country, I live in an area of Manchester with what I would call a healthy mix of races, black and Asian families are in the minority but they don't stand out as a rarity, in my class at school around half the class were non-white, but now I am working I would say less than 3 per cent of the people I work with are from ethnic minorities. Perceptions depend on where you live and also your circumstances such as profession or type of school. I agree ethnic minorities are under represented on television, my partner and I were trying to think of famous English black actors just the other night and I am sorry to say I couldn't name any, and could only think of a few.
Amy, UK

I totally agree with Johnston's comments below. Putting 'token' members of various ethnic groups into programming only reduces their quality. Actors and actresses, musicians and comedians need to have real talent to deserve being shown in our living rooms. I get annoyed by Hollywood's approach of having one of the 'stars' of a blockbuster movie from an ethnic group that doesn't even fit in with the plot. 'Robin Hood, King of Thieves' is a classic example - I don't remember reading about a shadowy Moor in the original Robin Hood book. Also, just a point - the Moors were not Black, they were of Arabian descent.
Rob Holman, Chislehurst, Kent, England

I think that TV-shows should be made with quality in mind, not the racial mixture of actors in it. Any artificial racial quotas only decrease the amount of time available to the main issue; entertainment.
Johnston, Ex-UK

Does this not depend on which part of the country you come from? As a Londoner it always looks to me like ethnic minorities are under represented. If I were to come from the Scottish Borders however I'd probably think they were over-represented.
Bill, UK

Well, if we are going to show a true representation of the population - I don't think there are enough larger people on TV, not enough short people, scientists are always represented as dweeby men with no life (and I am neither of these things), there aren't enough people wearing glasses... need I go on? If you go through life looking for the things that aren't there, it will a very boring life, and you will grow to resent everything.
Paula, UK

As a foreigner in Sweden I can say that there is a good proportion of non-white representation on TV here. What bothers me, however (and possibly others, too), is that these non-white presenters are also very fake in trying to imitate their also fake white colleagues, so I really don't know what is worse! I think someone should give whites and non-whites, on TV, some lessons on how to appear like ''normal'' individuals, irrespectively of their colour! We are so tired of looking at the ''happy go-lucky'' attitude of both men and women announcing enthusiastically another silly film on TV!
Nikie, Sweden

There is a fair representation of all colours and backgrounds on television at the moment

Mara, UK
There is a fair representation of all colours and backgrounds on television at the moment. What is the ICT looking for, TV dominated totally by ethnic minorities? That would be ridiculous. I think TV channels should think about the way in which they portray their characters on the screen rather than playing up to people's cliched expectations and giving way to tokenism.
Mara, UK

I actually think that you stand a far better chance of getting on to any BBC makeover programme if you are from an ethnic minority. Fully half, it seems of the Home Front series, and a high proportion of Changing Rooms and Ground Force featured black or Asian or mixed families. Fine, good luck to them all, but stop these pointless, hand-wringing, patronising researches into a problem which isn't there, and stop trouble-making. As a couple of your correspondents said, this IS actually British TV we're talking about and white people can be "represented" too.
CC, England

I don't think it matters. Programme producers should be more concerned about quality of content and popularity and professionalism of presenters. If they happen to be from an ethnic minority, who cares. If they happen to be white, who cares. I think anyone who feels the need to monitor whether there are enough blacks and Asians on TV needs to get a life. As it is I think ethnic minorities are very well represented on TV. This is how it should be in a multicultural society, but it should come about naturally. There should not be the need for meetings to be held to determine whether PC is being adhered to.
Andy, UK

I think that we have enough ethnic minorities on TV . You rarely get an English newsreader/reporter local or national these days and in comparison to their actual numbers this is not legitimate. Political correctness is spreading resentment and division throughout this country and it needs to stop now.
Kevin, England

When will people realise that the more we differentiate between blacks/whites/Asians, the more we prolong racism? It doesn't matter what colour skin you have...we're all the same underneath. And the sooner the PC brigade realise that, the better.
Jo Perrett, London, UK

Dear God, when will all this PC rubbish end?

Stuart M, UK
Dear God, when will all this PC rubbish end? I've said it before and I'll say it again, it doesn't matter if your white, black, pink or yellow - live and let live. The more people try to segregate themselves into little groups (i.e we are a minority therefore should be treated special and with kid gloves) the more resentment is going to grow.
Stuart M, UK

I originally come from South Africa and am now living here in the UK. In South Africa "racial Equality" was rammed down every person's throat and the people were forced and still are forced to accept one another. All this achieved was increasing anger and hatred toward one another. In Britain the same is happening the only difference is that South Africa has the majority of black people. In England the majority are whites - I believe that the UK is doing their best to produce society that can live together, that will only happen if all this racial equality talk is minimised and not thrown in everyone's faces. It would also help if the ethnics did not keep playing that race card time and time again.
Warren, SA Now UK

I really am tired of hearing that minorities are not being fully represented by broadcasters. It doesn't make any difference to me at all what colour the person performing is. However, when a government agency or "watchdog" decides that I have to see a certain percentage of a given ethnic group on television, it really is quite offensive. Eddy Murphy or Jim Carey, Denzel or DeNiro, does it really matter that much, as long it's good. If we follow the suggestions of the ITC to its natural conclusions, we will more than likely have dedicated ethnic viewing hours. Believe me, I've seen this in South East Asia and it does nothing for the quality of the entertainment or racial harmony.
Giles, Singapore

Surely the best person for the job is the best person for the job, regardless of colour etc. If you're going to go down that path, why are there so many Scottish presenters, even on local TV?
George, Gillingham, England

I think it is important for children of ethnic minorities to have a role model they can relate to. To see a fellow black person having success or being photographed can be inspiring. The roles played by whites and blacks are not equal, frequently the black person is in a support role or a minor role, this needs to be readdressed for it to be fair and healthy.
Cate, Japan

I am a white, middle class, 30 something, British, male living and working in Taiwan. I can't remember the last time I saw white people represented on Taiwanese TV and I really couldn't care less. What's all the fuss about?
Alex Sharp, Taiwan

Everytime a crime programme comes on the TV it's about lack or Asian people being victimised by white racists

Rick G, UK
Keep the race relations out of it. TV nowadays has too much of a biased racial stance. Everytime a crime programme comes on the TV it's about lack or Asian people being victimised by white racists. Never the other way around and the programme always takes the side of the black or Asian people. If you are in the US the majority of people on TV are white and black talking with American accents. No Hindis there. Is that racist as well? I'm getting pretty sick of this left wing ranting now.
Rick G, UK

Maybe the quantity is OK but what about the roles they play? Who wants to see another "black woman who is best friends with main character" sort of scenario?
Nadeem Backus, UK

After hearing this forum I need to move to the UK :-)
Blake, USA

It shouldn't matter what colour people on our TV screens are. What is important is if they are good at the job they are being paid for. Surely it is worse to hire someone because of their colour rather than their talent?
Jess Packer, UK

Sounds like the Brits are having a bit of "Friends" backlash much the same as we Americans are. In case you don't know there is an ongoing joke in America that there are still no black people on Friends. I like many other Americans simply reply, "Who cares?" I have yet to sit through an entire episode of this annoying little giggle fest. I'm afraid I am much harder to please and select my programming based on content, not the colour of the person presenting it. It all boils down to the writing for the shows not the actors used. Make it interesting and people will watch; make it a political ploy for attention and people will turn away in disgust.
John, Anaheim, USA

I don't wish to make a fuss out of racial issue but please can we have more Chinese movies on TV!
M Lim, UK

The reason that there is always pressure for a higher ethnic content in the media is that it is based in London and the big cities where most minorities are

Richard Drake, GB
The reason that there is always pressure for a higher ethnic content in the media is that it is based in London and the big cities where most minorities are, so the balance already favours them. Not important in itself until it is used as a reason for yet greater change. On the broader front, of course people have always settled in other countries but most of the movement has been between neighbours, forcefully or otherwise, whose cultures, religions and roots were already similar and the changes have occurred over hundreds of years so assimilation took place and few hackles were raised. The US is not a fair comparison because of its size where even today many people choose to preserve their roots be they Amish or Latinos.
Richard Drake, GB

Isn't it ridiculous that some people think that a topic like this doesn't matter? As a black person does it really matter how many blacks are on TV? Of course it does if I don't see my race properly represented. What confidence will I have, with my aspiration as a TV presenter when I am not even sure, I will ever come out on TV?
Justin Ekwonyeaba, Nigeria/UK

Whenever you see minorities it's tokenism, and whenever you don't it's racism. Can't this PC bunch accept that some shows will have them on and some won't?
Matthew R. Illsley, England

The media representation of ethnic blends is not important, I regard the ethnic mix in professions such as Judges, The Police, Bank Managers etc. as a more real reflection of the inequalities in society.
Dave Mc Michael, GB

Roughly speaking, the percentage of non-white people seen on TV should be the same as the percentage of non-white people in the population. At present, as far as I can see, we are seeing a greater percentage of non-white people on TV than is the percentage on non-white people in the UK population. Well said Simon Moore, and a few others. The proportion of non-whites to whites in the UK is about 1 in 7, therefore for every 7 white people on TV, only 1 should be non-white. This is definitely not the case and non-whites are very well represented. Will ethnic minorities remove that huge chip from their shoulder that makes them think all whites are racist, most of us couldn't care less if a person's white, black, yellow, or purple. What about racism against us. Take the MOBO music awards. If we had Music Of White Origin awards there'd be hell to pay. The show would be banned as anti-coloured etc etc. Get a life and get on with it.
Neil, England

I'm not particularly bothered what colour they are, but if you are trying to use representation on TV as measure of racial equality then it is probably slightly skewed in favour of non-whites at the moment.
Simon Moore, UK

Presenters should be selected on merit and popularity with viewers

Sam, UK
The current mix seems fine to me. This really is a non-issue, presenters should be selected on merit and popularity with viewers - not on ethnic background. Perhaps the ITC should spend less time stirring and more promoting quality television... something which is becoming a rarity.
Sam, UK

The more the "PC Crusade" constrict people, the more resentment will grow. Hearing this sort of rubbish is slowly making people more and more angry. Instead of encouraging better relations between the immigrant and the domestic cultures, they are forcing it down everybody's throats.
Michael, Dublin, Ireland

The way to achieve multicultural acceptance is not to try. Any black or Asian (or, for that matter, in other circumstances, white) actor or presenter employed 'for the sake of equality' will always be a token gesture by definition. The person best fit for the job should be employed and ethnic background, unless relevant, ignored. Obviously, almost uniquely in the visual arts, skin colour can occasionally be a relevant factor - in period drama, for instance - but other than in such cases it should not be an issue.
William Ramsden, UK

I am white and enjoy all sorts of television. Whatever happened to 'Mahabherat' and 'Goodness Gracious Me'? They could keep me entertained for hours. In my opinion there is not enough of it.
Jo-anne Mulqueen, Brentwood, UK

What concerns me is the way ethnic minorities are portrayed in these programs

Hrjoshi, UK
I accept that due to the small size of the ethnic population in Britain, the amount of programming aimed towards them is relatively small. However what concerns me is the way ethnic minorities are portrayed in these programs. Stereotypes seem to be the norm when making TV.
Hrjoshi, UK

Like all these targets for equality of representation, whether it be TV, Police, Armed Forces etc it assumes that people from ethnic backgrounds want to be represented. What happens when there aren't enough people from ethnic minorities interested enough in the chosen profession to meet the quotas?

I think this is pathetic. The same old whinge seems to arise every so often regarding the lack of 'ethnic minorities' shown on the television - but where's the problem? There is a far more than proportionate amount of ethnic people shown on the television when compared to the UK population, so why do these people always feel so victimised?
Greg, UK

The point is not so much the exact proportionate representation but rather that when you do see a black or Asian face on TV they are so obviously there as a token non-white.
wendy, UK

All immigrants should try to be British

Bob R, UK
All immigrants should try to be British. We do not have programs dedicated to Whites or the British alone. If we look at soaps, they have minority groups represented. We do not need specific programs detailing the lives of all those immigrants who gladly take our money and accommodation but refuse to be British. If we start pandering to their needs then where will it stop?
Bob R, UK

Another board about how all the races are unfairly treated, there is the channel MTVbase, this has only blacks on it. What about racism against us white folk?
Laura D/J, UK

The key word here is 'minority'. Over 90% of Britain is still made up of white Anglo-Saxons, so why on earth should there be more minorities on our screens? I think I see far more ethnic diversity and representation on TV than I ever do in real life. This report is just more PC claptrap that invents problems that don't exist or just don't matter!
Reg Pither, England

Broadcasters have two interests. Viewing figures - who is going to watch this? and Income - how much advertising revenue are we going to make? It's very hard to break that circle with minority interests. It needs dealing with - but I don't have the answer.
Alan Green, Germany

What percentage of the population is from ethnic backgrounds? If this is equally represented on screen then this should be sufficient.
Amanda Brearley, England

Personally I don't think so. There is only a 7% coloured population in the UK and I think that TV represents this quite well.
Vish, UK

I agree with Mike. Asians are well represented on UK TV. I mean almost all the female news anchors on BBC World Service are Asian or black - what's wrong with white presenters? After all, they are British people?
Lollo Sesti, Spain

As long as the programs are entertaining who cares what racial mix is in them
Mike, UK

The majority of the programs should be produced for the majority of the viewers

Caron, England
The majority of the programs should be produced for the majority of the viewers, conversely the minority of the viewers should not expect a lot of programs aimed for them only. Do the minorities enjoy the programs produced for the majority? If yes than what is the problem?
Caron, England

Yes. For the people who wish to watch programmes about Asian or Chinese religion there is an excellent choice on satellite television. I don't see why we should have to watch it on terrestrial television.
Chris Gower, London, UK

It seems to me that ethnic diversity is extremely well represented on British television. Given that 93% of the British population is white, one would expect British national TV to be predominantly white just as one would expect Nigerian national TV to be predominantly black, etc.
Michael Entill, UK

See also:

16 Apr 02 | TV and Radio
Watchdog attacks TV's racial mix
02 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
TV 'ignores' ethnic minorities
06 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
BBC should 'focus on quality'
10 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Dyke not 'dumbing down' BBC
26 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
ITV under fire from watchdog
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