BBC cast us aside, disabled trainees say

THE WORLD'S first disability programmes unit, launched by BBC-TV a month ago, has run into trouble, with some of its own disabled trainees expressing anger about the Corporation's attitude towards them.

The sensitive subject is complicated by the 'politics' of the disabled movement and by the trainees' desire to remain anonymous. Kerena Marchant, the unit's editor, who is deaf, seems to have angered four disabled people brought into the BBC in the past two years to work on ideas for unit programmes and to train as producers, assistant producers and production assistants.

The four, who regard themselves as pioneers of last month's programme launch, cope with disabilities ranging from near-blindness to cerebral palsy. They complain that, having worked on the 'blueprint' for the unit, they have been more or less cast aside by the BBC. They say they are reluctant to be quoted individually because their contracts forbid them to talk to the press.

Their main grievance is that when it came to recruiting disabled people for the launch of the new unit's programmes, made with an all-disabled production team, the BBC chose to exclude the original pioneers.

It is not clear why this occurred, but in the case of one of the four, the editor's written assessment of her performance said she was 'resilient (sic) to management and supervision and seems to regard it as persecution', while her 'emotional private life takes precedence over her work'.

The trainee in question criticises the disability programmes unit for being 'apolitical' and for not providing viewers with role models. She claims the unit suffers from low morale, lack of solidarity and incoherent purpose.

In a recent issue of Ariel, the BBC staff magazine, Ms Marchant explained new policy on 'disability programming'. In the past, it had been 'about the disabled' but made by 'able-bodied programme-makers, steering a cautious course, trying not to offend the disability movement'; whereas the new unit's programmes 'challenge all traditional ideas of disability'.

The team chosen to launch the project is putting out a bi-monthly topical magazine programme called From The Edge as well as planning short films about people's experiences of their disability, an entertainment programme, and an arts series.

The unit will also run a training scheme, funded by the European Social Fund. Every three months, three unemployed disabled people will start an 18-month scheme to train them for television jobs.

Some idea of the friction that has been generated between the four pioneers and Ms Marchant emerges from her detailed assessment of one of them, a woman. Referring to the disabled assistant producer's preparatory work on From The Edge, the editor said that the woman had 'hijacked' a production meeting by insisting on discussing 'access needs' rather than the series format.

On another occasion, when a programme for the deaf was being produced, the assistant producer said 'in a loud voice - upsetting the crew - that she had to go to a lesbian conference and that was more important'.

Another of the original four, who has cerebral palsy, found attitudes in the new unit 'so aggressive' that he decided to resign.

In a pub near BBC Television Centre, they voiced their resentment in strong terms. 'There was an air of suspicion and paranoia,' one said. 'I'm being held in a room in isolation, with nothing to do until my contract runs out in September.'

A colleague interjected: 'And I was terminated at the end of May. Of course the BBC operates on short-term contracts, but we haven't even been given an opportunity to work on mainstream programmes. We were being trained for the dole.'

A BBC spokesman said yesterday: 'We believe valuable work has been done in increasing the training and employment opportunities for disabled people in production areas of the BBC. Because of this advance there is competition for posts, and naturally some people have been disappointed.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
house + home
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Life and Style
Bats detect and react to wind speed and direction through sensors on their wings
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living