BBC rues lack of black 'Obama night' reporters

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The Independent Online

The head of the BBC newsroom has admitted his disappointment at the lack of black people participating in the corporation's coverage of Barack Obama's historic presidential victory.

Peter Horrocks, who watched the BBC's election night output from his home in south-west London, said he was "struck" by the paucity of black contributors to panel discussions and by the lack of black journalists on a night when political history was made.

"It just makes you think," he said. "I think if you look at some of the American broadcasters – and this is true of the BBC, ITV and Sky – we don't have as mixed [line-ups] both in on-air BBC people and commentators."

The BBC coverage was anchored by David Dimbleby and featured commentators such as the authors Christopher Hitchens and Gore Vidal, former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, and the historian Simon Schama. But asked whether the BBC should have included more African American voices, the BBC news chief concurred: "I think if we had thought about it probably we could have done with one or two more African American faces."

Mr Horrocks has a special responsibility for diversity issues within BBC News and said the election coverage had shown that more work needed to be done by the corporation to make it more representative. He said he was working to ensure that young BBC staffers from ethnic minorities were working to achieve their potential.

"Our figures are improving, they are still not as good as they should be at senior levels and they are not as good as they should be on air. But it's not about figures it's about portrayal, it's about how we come across," he said.

He said Obama's victory had thrown into sharp relief the levels of political interest among the BBC's young ethnic minority audiences, with young listeners to the BBC's Asian Network saying the election was the "first historic event of their lives".