Racism in UK media is a democracy issue


WATCH: DIAL Global Virtual Summit – Day 2

UK media has a racism problem, and this issue must be tackled not because it’s the right thing to do but the only thing to do, said panellists on a DIAL Virtual Global summit session on Thursday afternoon.

“I believe in democracy, in human rights, In freedom of speech and you cant have these things if certain parts of society do not have equal access for getting their voices heard,” said Marcus Ryder, head of external consultancies, at the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity.

He said just the way how much air-time political parties get before elections is measured, there needs to be a way of ensuring marginalised segments of society get equal time in the media as well.

“When you realise how under-represented women, people of colour, the disabled and other such groups are compared to the majority, you understand there is a fundamental power dynamic at play that comes in the way of equality,” he added.

Panellists on the 'Does the UK media have a racism problem?' session.

Panellists on the ‘Does the UK media have a racism problem?’ session.

Marcus was speaking on a panel titled ‘Does the UK media have a racism problem?’ at the DIAL Global Virtual Summit.

The summit, in partnership with Yahoo Finance owner-Verizon Media (VZ), is a two-day free event where senior leaders from FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 Companies discuss diversity, inclusion, and belonging and how these components are essential for successful businesses.

Read more:

Naomi Sesay, keynote speaker and trainer on race fluency, inclusive leadership and quantum D&I meanwhile, said that dealing with race “is not only the right thing to do right now it’s the only thing to do and if we don’t get a grip on this situation, especially in the media, we can see ourselves unravelling.”

She said that while big British broadcasters like ITV and BBC may have a decent representation of minorities on screen, this is not necessarily the case for their boards, and this ties into the systemic racism that has been seen for centuries.

Ryder pointed out that it’s not traditional media outlets that need to be scrutinised. A major concern for him is the lack of information around who is making the editorial decisions for social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter (TWTR), which a huge chunk of people go to for their news.

“Who are the people who are making decisions on how algorithms are programmed, what they think is editorially sensitive and should be blocked or banned?,” he asked.

Sesay also pointed out other challenges of race in media. She said verbal, subtle, sophisticated forms of racism that can be seen as micro-aggression are still at play, there is an “embarrassingly low” numbers of writers in drama and current affairs, and on-screen stereotypes continue to persist.