BBC runs into trouble with documentary on black men

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The Independent Online

Ethnic minority campaigners have called on the BBC to scrap a controversial documentary addressing whether young black men in Britain are facing a crisis.

Ethnic minority campaigners have called on the BBC to scrap a controversial documentary addressing whether young black men in Britain are facing a crisis.

In The Trouble With Black Men: a polemic, due to be screened on BBC3 tonight, the black journalist David Matthews investigates the problems suffered by Afro-Caribbean boys in the education system.

In two subsequent documentaries, he considers the links between black youth and crime, and the sexual stereotype of the black man as a well-endowed Lothario unable to commit to a long-term relationship and likely to be an absent father.

Members of the black community and leading black newspapers have accused the BBC of reinforcing racial stereotypes while failing to present adequate solutions.

Ligali, a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns for equality for African British people, has written to the BBC asking the corporation not to show the three-part series. Toyin Agbetu, a spokesman for Ligali, said the first programme in the series "realised our worst fears". He added: "It's unbalanced. They had a six-minute section on solutions in a 52-min-ute programme - 12 per cent.

"All it did was reinforce negative stereotypes. It's a waste of licence fee payers' money. The title is deeply offensive. The equivalent would be The Trouble With Asian Men, a programme about terrorists, or The Trouble With White Men, a programme about paedophiles. It refers to all black men, there's no limitation to that title."

Michael Eboda, the editor of the leading black newspaper New Nation, said the BBC was still failing ethnic minorities, more than three years after Greg Dyke admitted that the corporation was "hideously white". He added: "The majority of people in this country don't know any minority ethnic people. When you do programmes such as this, it is the only idea those people will have of what black people are like. It's just wrong."

In an editorial, The Voice, another prominent black newspaper, said the documentary "exploits the racist stereotype of black men as promiscuous, lazy and obsessed with rap".

"At a time when the police admit that the stop and search of black people is at an all-time high and when black deaths in custody are in the headlines again, this programme is inappropriate,'' the newspaper said.

"Black men are also licence fee payers and deserve programmes that don't insult them."

The BBC, which last year met its target of employing 10 per cent of its staff from ethnic minorities, hit back at the criticisms. Celia Taylor, commissioning executive on the programme , said it was a response to "compelling statistics", such as Afro-Caribbean boys being three times more likely than white boys to be excluded from school.

She admitted that the programme's title was "provocative'' but said the BBC ran it past the Commission for Racial Equality before going ahead. Ms Taylor added that the BBC had shown many "incredibly positive and aspirational'' programmes about black people, as well as exposing institutional racism in the undercover documentary The Secret Policeman.

She said: "[The] statistics raised the question, what on earth was going on with young black men? If you don't ask the questions, how do we start addressing these issues?"