Increasing diversity in the media is not just the right thing to do but a financial imperative, a packed crowd of industry figures heard at a London Press Club event last night.
The Press Club joined with ESI Media – the parent company of the Evening Standard, the Independent titles and London Live – to host the launch of the Media Diversified Experts Directory. A searchable and managed database, it connects broadcast and print outlets with BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) commentators and journalists.
Keynote speaker Pat Younge – who until he stepped down as BBC chief creative officer last year was the corporation’s most senior black executive – urged his peers to “see this as an opportunity for a dynamic and exciting collaboration”. “If you don’t believe in the social reasons for doing this then look at it in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. Britain is changing. 50% of the ethnic minority population is aged under 30. These are the populations that are growing and the audiences of tomorrow. So if you’re not motivated to address the issue through altruism, then just do it for the money – because frankly, I don’t care! I just want it done. I’ve got teenage kids – if they read newspapers or watch the news they don’t see many people who look like them, and that still bothers me.”
Media Diversified founder Samantha Asamundu paid tribute to her team and spoke of the pleasure of seeing the directory in action in providing guests for the pilots of Victoria Derbyshire’s new BBC2 show. London Press Club chair Doug Wills, who is also managing editor of the Evening Standard and Independent titles, opened the evening by describing the directory as “so logical you can’t think why it hasn’t been done before”. Younge also alluded to this, recalling that the prospect had been talked about at the BBC in his first stint there in the 1990s.
“One reason this directory exists is that it didn’t wait for the traditional British media establishment to bring it into being,” he added. “Instead of waiting Samantha and her team took the initiative and took the idea to the audience, via Kickstarter. And the crowd provided the money. Which suggests to me that the public at large already believe that improving diversity is a bloody good idea. And it is a bloody good idea!”
Younge also addressed the “simple and solvable” reasons why the media had fallen short of representing the make-up of the UK. “As a journalist you spend your career making contacts, people whose opinions you value and you can trust to deliver, especially when deadlines are tight or where the issues are complex. So when you are called into action, you first of all go to those you know and then to those you know understand what you need. It’s not hard to see how that becomes a self-selecting group and then a self-replicating system, unless you intervene. This experts directory is one such intervention. Its goal is to make it easier for people to find and book a broader range of talent.”
Guests from across the media industry – including Metro editor Ted Young, broadcaster Henry Bonsu and presenters John Stapleton and Lynn Faulds Wood – attended the event at Northcliffe House – home not only to ESI Media but also the Daily Mail and Metro –making it the latest exclusive venue for a London Press Club event, following the Brazilian Embassy and the offices of News UK and the Telegraph.
Closing his speech, Younge made a final plea to his colleagues. “If you are passionate about journalism that is challenging and engaged, that looks, feels and sounds like the society we live in today then please sign up for the directory and play your part in the reinvigorated media landscape.”