Concern at BBC over fall in ethnic-minority audiences

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The Independent Online

The BBC's board of governors have attacked the corporation for its failure to attract ethnic minority audiences, two and a half years after Greg Dyke said it was "hideously white''.

In the BBC's annual report published yesterday, the governors expressed disappointment that despite spending millions to attract more ethnic minority viewers and listeners, such audiences for radio and television had fallen.

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said last night: "They have got to stop thinking of minority communities as a separate, marginal bunch of people and start to think of them as part of the mainstream."

BBC executives are also concerned about the findings of research commissioned by the corporation into why ethnic minorities reject its services.

The report found that only 45.2 per cent of ethnic minority communities listen to BBC Radio compared to 63.4 per cent of the general population. The figure has fallen from 46.9 per cent in 2002 despite the launch last year of the BBC Asian Network and 1Xtra, a digital station specialising in urban music.

Only 78.3 per cent of ethnic minority communities watched BBC television programmes (down from 78.6 per cent last year), compared with 87 per cent of the total population. The governors said: "There is little evidence so far that the BBC is attracting more people from ethnic minorities to its output. Awareness of both BBC mainstream and targeted programming among ethnic minorities remains low."

Mr Phillips, who is also an independent television producer, said: "The BBC under Greg Dyke clearly recognises there's a problem. The difficulty is they just haven't got a clue what to do about it.

"One thing you cannot do is shuffle off all the expressions of ethnic minority experience to the digital channels, which seems to be happening at the moment."

The BBC document was presented to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee yesterday. MPs were unhappy with the presentation of statistics after the corporation "reanalysed'' its figures to give more information on its spending patterns. Gerald Kaufman, the committee chairman, said the document appeared to exaggerate the number of viewers watching the digital BBC News 24 service.