The writer of TV drama Cracker, Jimmy McGovern, has accused the BBC of being "one of the most racist institutions in England" in a BBC Five Live interview.
McGovern has won TV Bafta awards for his writing
The award-winning writer said while there were "lots of black faces in the BBC", they were working in the canteen.
In a statement the BBC said: "We're actively seeking and nurturing ethnic talents both on and off the air."
McGovern, whose TV credits also include BBC One drama The Street, was being interviewed by presenter Simon Mayo.
He was in the studio to talk about his first stage play in 20 years, King Cotton.
The drama has its world premiere next month as part of commemorations to mark the bicentenary of Britain's act abolishing the slave trade.
Positions of power
Asked by Mayo whether the country was less racist than it once was, McGovern said: "I have got to say this, you will not like this. But I've worked a lot in the BBC, you know.
"I love the BBC as an institution and as an organisation and you do see lots of black faces in the BBC. But you see them in the canteen. You do not see them in positions of power.
"It would appear to me that one of the most racist institutions in England is in fact the BBC."
Mayo reacted by saying it was "a very serious allegation to be making", adding that the BBC would be responding.
He later read out a statement from the BBC. It said: "What really matters is that we reflect our audiences through our programmes.
"The BBC's ambition is to reflect the ethnic and social mix of people around the country. We're actively seeking and nurturing ethnic talents both on and off the air.
"This has been coming through in our output with a range of presenters and reporters across our peak-time programmes for example Freema Agyeman in Doctor Who, the forthcoming Omid Djalili show, Dance X, and dramas such as Waterloo Road.
"It is something we are always looking to improve on."
In March, Jonathan Ross said during his live Radio 2 show that too many black people at the BBC were in low-paid jobs.
"How many black people have they got working on proper shows there?," he said at the time.
"You know the BBC still haven't really come up to speed. I mean they are trying, God bless them.
"Most of the guys you see there are either working on the door, carrying a cloth in there and cleaning up. We haven't really made the effort yet."
In 2001, after being appointed director general of the BBC, Greg Dyke accused the corporation of being "hideously white".