Minority staff at BBC claim Dyke ignores them

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The Independent Online

Angry black and Asian staff have condemned Greg Dyke, the director general of the BBC, for ignoring their views in his much-touted mission to improve cultural diversity, insiders claimed yesterday.

In a two-hour meeting on Thursday, staff told Mr Dyke that if he wanted to achieve his targets of promoting more staff from ethnic minorities he must work more closely with them.

"If he wants to achieve this, he needs to work with us," one black journalist at the meeting said yesterday. "A lot of us are completely fed up. Although we enjoy working for the BBC, we're undervalued, and in some cases underpaid and overlooked for promotion."

In his first major speech since being appointed, Mr Dyke pledged his determination to employ 10 per cent of its workforce, and 4 per cent of its managers, from ethnic minorities by 2003. He criticised the BBC as being "hideously white".

But privately, many black and Asian staff fear that the drive to recruit more staff members from the ethnic minorities is leading to inappropriate appointments that benefit no-one.

Some believe that they are also facing a backlash from white colleagues who resent an influx of staff from ethnic minorities into their departments, sources claimed.

Around 120 staff attended the meeting which had been requested by the BBC Black Forum, which represents around a fifth of the BBC's ethnic minority staff. The forum requested racial awareness training for all staff as well as more consultation.

Mr Dyke was accompanied by Peter Salmon, the white director of sport who was also made race champion this year, and Linda Mitchell, a black former journalist who is now in the post of head of diversity.

She said yesterday that they were there "in a listening capacity" to learn, and the meeting had involved a major debate about how to change the culture of the BBC and avoid misunderstandings.

"I'm pleased to say we're making progress and we're moving in the right direction. Whenever something is brought to our attention, we investigate it. We have nothing to hide here," she said.

"The targets are fair and we can work really hard to achieve them. But there are the 'softer' measures as to whether people feel valued and respected, too. That's important."

Alex Pascall, head of the National Union of Journalists' black members' council and a former BBC employee, said he was surprised the BBC had not consulted the council about the targets, as the BBC did not have a large network of internal people to advise it.

He said: "I don't think it's really a co-ordinated effort. They're papering the cracks. Greg Dyke may be serious about it, but can he deliver? I consider it a joke."

Mr Pascall said there was an additional problem in that some staff from ethnic minorities, who felt they should speak out about the problems, were frightened to do so. He said that they preferred not to accept the black label.

"There are too many people who do not want to define themselves by colour, creed or race," he asserted, "because they're frightened of what the system will see them as."

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