Workplace racism is getting worse

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The Independent Online
RACIAL discrimination at work is getting worse, not better, according to a TUC report. Black and Excluded, to be launched at a conference tomorrow, claims that unemployment rates in the ethnic communities have risen from 11 per cent to 13 per cent since the beginning of the 1990s, despite growing prosperity. And although a small number of non-whites have broken into the professions, very few hold senior management positions.

"Minorities are breaking into the financial sector and other areas that were previously closed to them in increasing numbers," a TUC spokesman said, "but the only conclusion you can draw from the unemployment figures is that recruiters are generally biased against blacks and Asians."

The report will call on the Government to target black and Asian recruitment, tackle racial harassment in the workplace and ask why ethnic minorities are failing to break through the management glass ceiling.

Its findings are understood to be reinforced by a joint Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC)/Independent Television Commission report published next week. This is likely to be critical of the portrayal of ethnic minorities - who always seem to be shown in "problem" stories, in marginal jobs, running corner shops, or in comedy shows - and the failure of organisations such as the BBC and ITV to promote black and Asian producers to senior positions.

The BBC last night admitted it did not monitor its programmes constantly in the same way it did for political bias. A spokesman said the monitoring of the portrayal of minorities was done from time to time and he was not aware of plans to change that policy.

The BSC report Include Me In is a wide-ranging look at the representation of ethnic minorities on television. The report's authors have interviewed black independent producers about their experiences of the industry, commissioning editors have been surveyed on their views of representing black and Asian people in programmes. and focus groups of Afro-Caribbean people have been asked their views on ethnic representation on TV.

Last night the report was welcomed by Trevor Phillips, managing director of Red Pepper productions and a prospective deputy mayor of London. He said: "It's very difficult to be authoritative about representation on television because there's no data and what there is isn't standardised, so you can't compare like with like."

Samir Shah, head of Juniper Productions and former BBC head of current affairs, studied ethnic representation before he left the BBC earlier this year.

Mr Shah discovered that during the course of eight stories that BBC Breakfast did on housing issues not a single interview was with an Asian or Afro- Caribbean homeowner when the two groups have the highest incidence of home ownership in the UK.

The BBC proudly proclaims 8.1 per cent of its staff are of ethnic origin - but there are none on the BBC's board of management.

According to Mr Shah the improvements of the past 10 years can be directly linked to the growth in the number of black people working in television. But he maintains fairer representation will only come when minorities break the executive glass ceiling. "Why is it that well-meaning and liberal organisations can't find senior black executives? The argument that they don't exist or they don't put themselves forward simply isn't credible any more."

Chris Myant, from the Commission for Racial Equality, said: "Both these reports will underline what we have been saying for years. The task of delivering equal opportunities isn't a one-off and in institutions it has to be carried out at every level."