Thursday 8 December 2016

BBC axe award-winning comedian of 18 years for being 'white and male'

Nicola Harley

Published 02/10/2016 | 11:53

File photo dated 07/01/13 of Jon Holmes, as the presenter on BBC Radio 4's The Now Show has said the broadcaster fired him because it wanted
File photo dated 07/01/13 of Jon Holmes, as the presenter on BBC Radio 4's The Now Show has said the broadcaster fired him because it wanted "more women and diversity"

Comedian Jon Holmes claims he was axed from BBC Radio 4 for being "white and male".

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The broadcaster, who has appeared on The Now Show for 18 years, was contacted by the corporation and claims he was told by bosses that they were "recasting it with more women and diversity".

The 47-year-old tweeted the news this week, poking fun at Jeremy Clarkson by saying he "didn't even punch a producer".

Speaking out about the BBC's decision not to renew his contract, he wrote in The Mail on Sunday: "Should I, as a white man (through no fault of my own), be fired from my job because I am a white man?

"I mean, I know it’s a big ask and yes we’ll have to agree to draw a line under much that has gone on before, but what if we’re all just ‘people’, judged on merit? Call me crazy but what if, regardless of skin colour, or anything else, the best candidate gets the job?

"I’m not even asking for mine back. That’s not the point. I just wonder, what with all the pressure about being seen to ‘get it right’, we’re actually getting it a bit wrong."

He added: "I don’t think that discrimination of any kind is ever positive, however well intentioned everyone thinks they are, because someone is always going to lose out based on something they can’t help.

"Personally I want equal opportunities for all, irrespective of who or what they are. So maybe we should open up the debate."

Holmes has won two Baftas, eight Sony awards and two British Comedy awards. He co-created Radio 4’s Dead Ringers, which later transferred to BBC Two, and has been a co-writer of the Horrible Histories series for CBBC.

He revealed in the newspaper how colleagues had contacted him and shared similar experiences, including one woman who was offered a job and later had it withdrawn for being "too white and middle class".

It comes as the BBC's new diversity targets aim to ensure that women will make up half of its staff by 2020 and the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds will increase to 15 per cent.

A BBC spokesperson said: “While the Government's new charter for the BBC does set us diversity targets, we always hire presenters on merit.

“We’d like to thank Jon Holmes for his contribution, but our comedy shows are constantly evolving and it was simply time to create opportunities for new regulars when The Now Show returns this autumn."

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