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Read this: June Sarpong: What is diversity?

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June Sarpong: What is diversity?…



BBC sounds music Radio podcasts from BBC Radio 4 today we're going to get one of the most ubiquitous and least understood ideas in media diversity, and we're going to do it with possibly the two people in media who spent more time thinking about it than anyone else what exactly is diversity.

Why is it desirable and might The Pursuit of some aspects of diversity end up actually making things worse June Sarpong is the BBC's first ever of creative diversity unpack that job site on a bit welcome to the show festival tell us what has been your creative highlight of the Summer hello.

How are you my love dative was it what's your creative highlight in the summer?

Thank you June at more from you in a moment also on the line is Matthew side Sunday Times colonist podcast That authored many books including rebel ideas the power of diverse thinking and Matthew is a former British champion ping pong player Matthew finally put in today, but the dentist putting a lot of anaesthetic into the side of my jaw so when I told my wife the Radio 4 interview she said you don't like yourself.

You're listening that made sound good to you, but I can very self conscious.

I'm going to keep going I'm looking forward to this is a hugely important all organisations to get right so I'm really looking forward to the conversation about diversity and table tennis is the world of Media more diverse than the world of table tennis.

Developing is obviously the coaches that I interacted with was coming through almost all English they grow up on the socialized into the English table they coached in a particular way, they thought of development in a particular way and then in the late 1980s a guy who is one of the top Chinese players of the manage married a Yorkshire woman came to live in the UK and suddenly.

I got access to this completely different way of thinking about table tennis multi ball training new football.

I didn't take all a bit but it made me realise that when you're able to access abroad a pool of information.

It's a huge significance the sport of almost any industry can benefit from providing.

They know how to optimise the right kind of diversity in accordance with what they're seeking to achieve before we get a really good stuff.

Let's get a really basic question at the wagering at what is diver.

I would say diversity is as bringing together of an from perspectives different lived experiences different backgrounds to create something new and something even better and does that in practice mean was that mean? What are the categories you think about race gender disability windows all of the above all of the various underrepresented groups working alongside the majority group.

I think it really only works when you have the right representation of of all groups and so that's how I would put it.

Ok? I just is an untested mantra.

Why is diversity in media actually worthwhile? Why is it a social good? I think it's particularly if you are a broadcaster trying to reach us.

Possible Ben of course you should represent your audience and I would say the best way to do that authentic Lee is to make sure that your workforce that is made up of the people you are trying to make programs for Matthew said you were just English have done in your butt between demographic diversity and cognitive diversity.

What's the what is the difference diversity is the things that tune talked about differences and race gender social class religious background of diversity is differences in the way people think differences and effective and insight and information and the different models and he rystix that they used to make sense of the world.

There's obviously an overlap between these two things and most areas so in the example if everybody in your team your editorial team or your commissioning team will white male middle class private school educated, Oxbridge graduates indeed almost certainly going to be the case.

Cater for the breadth of people are gonna be consuming the BBC but this was saying I think there are certain contexts where the overlap between demographic diversity on the one hand on the other just don't exist so if you're designing an aircraft engine the fact that I'm mixed-race and June has her background and you have yours being mixed race isn't going to give any particularly significant insights into how to weaken the design of the engine might improve its aerodynamics, so one of the things.

I think is very important not to reduce diversity to a box of people who look different but I think in the same way that can often happen and in a big monolithic institution like the BBC drive down driving to whether we have a problem here which is your contention and spend a lot of time companies about this is your contention that a lot of companies and other organisations in the media and beyond in trying to address.

The diversity maybe more visible touch diversity demographic diversity agenda, actually and employing people who do they look different think the same in other words that input in pursuit of so one problem.

They might make another problem even worse it's even worse than that to happen is that organisations of very good at hiring people who look diverse reasonably easy terrible easy to do but it's not terribly difficult either but what happens if these diverse people often with different experiences and different insights they become homogenize.

Please get socialized into the dominant assumptions of the institution a group of people will become socialized in editorial meetings, what supposed to be said what's thoughts of you are considered socially acceptable and you can get deeper modularity even with people who might look on the surface different fascinating suggest we got one problem which is commonly.

Defined and people say they understand which is a lack of diversity, but it might be a secondary problem which is Diversity Policy which might actually make somebody original problems worse let's examine those two through the party your career June because you started as a work experience student or kid really at kiss-fm for moving to MTV later T4 is a presenter.

How did you get into the industry to be part of this? I was very lucky because I managed to get a secure work experience placement when I was 16 so I went to a local school in east London and it was an interesting time because it was as the area was becoming slightly more gentrified, but you still had a lot of local farm school was one of the best olden a lot of the sort of new middle-class families that have moved to our community sent their kids to ask Paul and so

Fantastic corporately luckily for me kiss FM was one of them.

Just to talk more about your journey.

You've been working in the mood for several decades now you appear on Skies to make me what's the website is I didn't use the word better in which I think is the most insulting.

Are you experienced and talking about experience? Can I ask may I ask have you experienced racism or indeed sexism and because of my background.

Why I didn't get jobs racism classism me a combination actually combination of the two and an example was when I was at the time one of the highest rated shows on the network and I was excluded from.

All of the female presenters from the channel at the time and in a way it was it was very young.

So it was completely heartbreaking but really lifted my spirits with the way that the audience reacted the audience came to my defence and actually it became a real teachable moment for the executives at the network at the time and I think the thing with these issues is we have to get to a place where we won accept that there is an imbalance and that actually we are not dealing with a playing field and then to move from judgement and accusation to actually honest dialogue in order to be able to come up with some much more Solutions focused and you're feeling is just briefly finally of your things things have improved since you started your first.

Table tennis you compete in the Olympics of sporting achievement supposedly that went to discriminate only on the grounds of ability but has Prejudice ever held you back.

Do you think in the world of tables in the world of jainism one of the things that encourage my father to get me in my brother and sister in2sport was precisely that you just couldn't get promoted in the civil service so when we will grown up.

He said looks is so objective if you are the fastest runner nobody can dispute it and if You're Winning on a table tennis table.

You will be selected so kind of way.

He thought sport as a real safeguard against racial discrimination.

How diverse is the BBC media organisations is diversity of entry-level, but certainly not diverse enough in terms of mid-level and senior leadership.

And I think anybody would agree and accept that and and if you look at the targets that we set ourselves, we're not we're not hitting them in the way we would like being made to try and address that so the BBC has a BME staff at the BBC be really is in self maybe not very helpful acronym but pame started BBC iTV Channel 4 viacomcbs Coast 13% buttercross TV bame representation at senior level is 9% and across the recreativa contact action is 8% the UK's JME Work population is 12% What's the target that you guys have set in terms of leadership of the ba me it's 15% and is the target and take us longer than we would have hoped to reach it and to get there, but I think it's important.

It's important for so many reasons you know when you look at some of the problems, but not just the bee.

I think broadcasters in general have had a lot of that has to do with leadership and also we want to send the right message to the rest of the organisation in terms of Talent that are coming through it.

They need to be able to see examples and of progression from people from all backgrounds and walks of life and as I said you know it it makes for a better product when you're working in a creative industry and so the wood about the comment you said you going to get to see the right examples on screen be am also on the radio hearing voices that is there something we get it wrong at the moment which is according to figures 36.7% of characters in children's programming R&B

Characters and 25.9% in drama, and that's a huge overrepresentation as against the UK population and it is you say off-screen BME people are underrepresented.

Why would it be that in some Fields pame people should be so overrepresented where the underrepresented of screen look at the influence and the AMI culture has had globally as you look at the influence of hip hop music and if you look at influence of the cuisines from many of these BME cultures and they have had an Unbelievable impact in terms of the numbers of some of these communities in talking about that's why you do get the representation on screen on there, but our Focus is about looking at behind the

Which is no one or behind the microphone knowing you wear it needs to be I'm sure if you look at your team.

I don't know who makes up your team, but I'm sure we you probably would like to have more diverse team working around you and then actually if we were to look at the leadership of the organisation itself that definitely is not in line with some of the that you've just quoted so I think what we have to look at is there are areas where we've made great strides no question in terms of honour on screen, but there's a lot more work to be done behind the camera on the different issues raised by what tune is saying and buy this word diversity one of the reasons rounders conversations that diversity doesn't come naturally to us.

Why not the people who look like I said often think this is a tradition going back to Aristotle who wrote About It plated to they called it and offaly the pleasure centres of our brains light up and people are mirroring our perspective.

Validates our world makes us feel smart 1 people telling us things we already know so there is a deep unconscious tendency to congregate with people who are like minded and you can see the sun Institute level all around the world and it really undermines the capacity of groups in the context of the media to commission programmes of the appeal to a wide audience to come up with great ideas.

I look at my own industry of newspapers many of li7 all titles in the UK of either only recently or never had a black columnist, so we've had these great racial formations in this country a hugely divisive topic and it's all been interpreted by white people who haven't had the experience of being from an ethnic minority, so that's just one example of how when you do broaden in the right way, you can meet your objectives and a much more effective way that the types of diversity people pursue at the ones that are in.

If I go look at the BBC newsroom, I can tell you're pretty quickly the gender split I can tell you pretty quickly the ethnic minorities split and hopefully quickly, how many people might or might not have a serious physical impairment or disability? Well, I can't do is how many people are graduates or non-graduates when I can't tell you anything about the socioeconomic background of people isn't the one of the tricks or difficulties of diversity that the stuff that you really need to address which is getting away from London having non-graduates having people from poorer backgrounds is stuff that you can't see and can't as easily define but it is reasonably easy to identify these things at the Recruitment stage.

Yes, you need to drill into different political backgrounds.

I love the BBC so I hope this will be taken in the right way very monolithic in political Outlook and that's another thing as a public service broadcaster has to address and address soon because even when you talk to people off the record and

Editorial meeting it is very difficult to offer a view that challenges the basic centrist remain metropolitan the dominant view of the BBC started you I disagree.

I think the BBC is actually trusted and one of its strongest impartiality and and of course when it comes to social economic diversity to pick up and what he said before I don't think it is that hard to quantify as a working-class clear this clear criteria that you can use to determine and Sed characteristics and actually is one of the areas that we definitely have a lot more work to do and and actually is an area for my department as a key area of Focus so I'd see what Matthew is sayings.

I would push back on that and say that actually I think the BBC impartiality is actually one of its strongest assets in the head of editorial senior editor of the BBC said in a select committee.

Just recently joined the BBC was a bit slow to understand immigration and that was a bit so I think they would mention to know why people might vote for brexit and yeah, it was going past everyone has careers an ISA for the BBC that should be held against them you campaign for remain many years ago.

Do you think that what Matthews saying here which is used in the BBC is dominated by a sudden a metropolitan and remain tenancy on political diversity.

Would you say I know you're in charge of creative diversity about political diversity of rope little person understands quality.

Do you get busy has got a way to go or not?

Like an campaigned on at before working for the BBC that I no longer campaign on now because I understand that this is an impartial organised and who works for the BBC understands that they are in a way a custodian of something quite precious.

You know we have such an important role to play in British society and therefore we have to put up political allegiance is a side when we worked on the BBC and so maybe the perception is that it is full of Metropolitan elites you actually I would argue that once you work here.

You know that that no longer apply because there is an even bigger mission which is to ensure that everybody feels and that is what my comment anyway.

We are working on in terms of the creative side of the dispute of frankness with which were talking to other.

Projects now going to put the first one to you Matthew which is about whether not diversity is a zero-sum game and then we'll talk about whether the audience actually want it Matthew isn't it absolutely case as we social mobility ware for some to move up others must move there are a limited number of opportunities to write a BBC One drama or do it the Today programme who has to make way if we are to create a more diverse Media because isn't that can end up whisking and franchising a lot of people you need to keep on site is Twitter a bit too many BBC News journalists.

Look at Twitter and I think I probably been guilty of this to and think of it as representative of the volume of the nation at large.

This is one of the reasons.

Why he didn't see brexit coming didn't see the rise of trump even in the buildup to the last general election here.

It's all about Corbyn and then Johnson wins this resounding the charity and I do think that in some of the openings to certain news programs.

You can see a clear left wing by am I say that is somebody who stood for the Labour Party voted remain as strong sort of affinity for the views the BBC I think safeguard its limitation for Political impartiality more than almost anything else if it loses that it loses its Raison debt and I do worry about it and I think Twitter in addition to Twitter is one of the drivers of that what I just want to tell them about this.

I think we talk to it on there so many times.

I think it is doing terrible terrible damage to a British journalist.

Let me talk about that 07472 mover in and up.

Others must move down or out who's gonna have to make way if there is going to be a more diverse Media so I think the characterizations.

Misses out the most important part of the equation which is the audience the function of the BBC is to provide the best programming possible for the audience of it serves and it and if it is too narrow.

It's failing and that fundamental Duty if it gets the diversity right not just diversity of demography the diversity of viewpoints diversity impact.

These are the things that we've talked about that is a positive some for the nation and for its audience there will be some people who look at Radio 4 presenters again very many thanks Mail middle class that is a feeling of Radio 4 and I think that it needs some really think carefully about that, but also of course people behind the scenes as well.

Otherwise it's not gonna do nothing interesting forgive you it's nothing but a reason not to do what the BBC is supposed to do which is service audio, but there's nothing intrinsically.

Bigwhitewall male middle class and isn't there a danger is there a danger that in The Pursuit of a reasonable you know who are the base of very good arguments with your both making that you'll end up disenfranchised choose number of people you know is there a real danger that the the ideas with your advisor Matthew end up with whole groups of people feeling they're being pushed aside you might say that to happen, but I'm just asking whether or not that's a cost of the diversity agenda want to do that at the moment.

It's school educated Oxbridge graduates because I have a huge amount to contribute but it is like this if you have 10 people in the team coming up with ideas and all of them come up with the same ideas as one another they're not adding much to one another different ideas creating divergent thinking you're opening the possibility to the cross-pollination of

That's what you need you don't want any it's getting the right level of diversity and that means absolutely you want white people you want menu want people are middle-aged.

You just don't want to be done by demographic when we think about the the list for instance of highly paid BBC stuff about BBC here, but there are lessons for the BBC to be applied elsewhere in the media, but when that list of highly paid presenters at came out.

It was dominated by white men isn't the case that to achieve the diversity targets which you're pursuing a lot of a particular kind of demographic white men will have to move on or Stepaside and is there a risk I just want to talk about whether you think there is a risk that you end up disenfranchising whole groups of people was absolutely spot-on, and this is something that I talk to you a lot of audiences about when I go around the country speaking about this issue.

I think we will almost.

Using the wrong lens for this issue.

The old way has been all about Doggy Dogg and ensuring that one person has to win and therefore others have to lose what we're saying is actually we never tried you've never know what it feels and what he even looks like to create kind of framework where everybody can contribute to the best of their ability and what are you able to develop and create as a result of that and I would argue that this is not a 0 do you get in the end if something much bigger than anything.

We've ever seen before because we've always had inequality in society.

We've always had systems only a select few are able to really fulfill their potential and so for me.

I don't buy that argument at all and I hope with the stuff that we're doing.

Able to demonstrate that actually what we're doing is creating something that much bigger and there's a place for everybody in what work for you you mentioned talking to the audiences, what research have you done your team done to show you actually do want this and I said 32rd loaded question is how to say that what you're going to say by saying that when we talk about this subject.

I do get emails that on the media.

Do you get you a lot of people saying you know I listen to the ministers to Radio 4 this evening but a lot of it leaves me behind not because they don't see what the fuss is about that because they just feel like this is a conversation going to feel a part of so how do you know that? They wouldn't actually does want what you're giving them about how you have the conversation if you're having the conversation in a way that is truly include and when we say truly inclusive women inclusive of everyone even those that have the most agency in society and if you have the conversation in that way then everybody knows.

This and realise that there is a part for them to clean it and actually we're looking at our internal research in terms of audiences.

It's very clip a large large.

Chunk society that feels BBC doesn't adequately represent the people who pay for the licence fee and therefore service on the reason why we are then we have to find ways of engaging them properly and I believe that is ensuring that our workforce is representative of those people and therefore output will be better as a result well.

I hope this conversation has been sufficiently inclusive to ever and that we filled our remit as public servants.

Thank you both very very much indeed.

I thought that was hugely illuminating and I think we dancers on the questions that we said that to say thank you so much.

I'll ask this show is Ludacris short so we have to leave it there, but thank you to June Sarpong who's the BBC's director of creative diversity and Matthew side, who's a Sunday Times columnist and author thanks for your time.


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