Entertainment

Sunday 26 January 2020

BBC diversity chief June Sarpong says corporation must ‘reflect and engage’

The broadcaster and presenter took up the role in October last year.

June Sarpong (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)
June Sarpong (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

By Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter

The BBC’s newly-appointed director of creative diversity has warned that the corporation will only remain “the broadcaster of choice” by “cultivating inclusion”.

In her first major address since taking up the role in October last year, June Sarpong said the BBC could not escape the fact that “the makeup of Britain’s viewing audience” is changing rapidly.

Writing in the Huffington Post, the 42-year-old presenter said the solution will be to “reflect and engage with the UK’s diverse communities” both on and off the screen.

Sarpong’s appointment is an attempt by BBC bosses to ensure the broadcaster better reflects modern Britain and its audience.

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The BBC appointed June Sarpong in October (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Sarpong said: “We can’t escape the fact that the make-up of Britain’s viewing audience and workforce is rapidly changing.

“And we can only continue to make the case for the BBC as a broadcaster of choice by cultivating inclusion and harnessing the power of our diversity.

“Put simply, we need to reflect and engage with the UK’s diverse communities both on and off screen, and to produce the inclusive conditions required for diversity to thrive.

“However, there is no getting away from the very real barriers that exist, which have slowed progress and led to the emergence of roles like mine across all industry sectors in an attempt to help circumvent them.

“Part of the problem is that these barriers cannot always be seen, but they can definitely be felt if your lived experience of being different has exposed you to them.”

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BBC chief Lord Tony Hall (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Sarpong, who was made an OBE in the New Year Honours for services to broadcasting, also addressed diversity across the media industry, saying that progress had been “too slow and there is still a way to go”.

She used the address to highlight the “bold” initiatives recently introduced by the BBC’s director-general Lord Tony Hall to increase representation for Bame (black, Asian and minority ethnic) and disable people.

She also promised to announce further details for the BBC’s inaugural Creative Diversity Festival, a three-day event connecting Bame talent to the industry, in the near future.

Sarpong began her career on radio, before becoming a presenter for MTV, and Loose Women, and then taking a seat on the Sky News debate show, The Pledge.

She has also engaged in advocacy work, and was previously awarded an MBE in 2007 for her charity and broadcasting work.

PA Media

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