In July Pat Younge resigned from his post as chief creative officer of BBC Productions and will say goodbye to the corporation at the end of this year. But before leaving Pat has decided to speak out about the lack of diversity on British television.
In a recent interview with Radio 5 Live breakfast he said:
“I have lived in both [the US and the UK]. I would rather personally live in Britain as a culture, as a society, in terms of how different races live together and rub along side by side.
“In terms of the economics of being a black TV executive, I would have a much better career and a much more lucrative career in the States because the economics of the industry drive it that way.
“First of all, the US has a bigger drama industry than we do here and secondly, African-Americans make up one in eight of the population, there is an economic driver for the production companies and networks to include black actors.
“It’s inconceivable in the States that you would have a significant drama that does not have a black person in a lead or second lead role.”
“The challenge we face in UK TV is can we get more black writers through the system who can create these rounded parts, that will give these actors the work they are looking for.
“One of the things black people will say is, ‘my colour is a big part of some of the stories I want to tell.’ You need writers who understand these stories who can bring them to screen.”
In response to Pat’s criticisms broadcaster Dotun Adebayo goes straight for the juggler and questions why he is only speaking out now.
Why is he now airing these grievances when he’s leaving? Should he not have stood up and made known his feelings when he was still a rising star at the BBC, when he could have made a stronger impact and been able to change things from within? Or was he too afraid of losing his job at the time?
Look, it is for each and every individual to decide whether to opt for a quiet life and take their pay packet and say nothing, or whether they are going to stand firm and take on the establishment from within. But, honestly, I am getting sick and tired of all these so-called black execs and top notches working for years within the system and then suddenly calling foul when they are leaving their jobs or getting sacked. That is no good for us.
I have known Pat Younge for nearly 30 years. He and I were both student leaders at university. I was president of my student union and he was finance officer for the National Union of Students. What I can tell you is that he is no fool. In fact, he is one of the shrewdest operators I have come across. He didn’t get to the top at the BBC without being shrewd.
To my surprise Pat did not take Dotun’s biting commentary lying down and posted the following reply in the comments section:
Don’t usually comment on stuff like this but my reputation is all I have and I will protect it from total crap and piss poor journalism. For example, there was never anything in the daily mail, it was in the Guardian, and that was their version of something I said on Radio5 Live breakfast. How am I meant to control that? Why did I talk to 5Live and not the Voice? Because 5Live asked my opinion and the Voice didn’t.
As for speaking up on race when at the BBC, don’t take my word for it – ask the BBC Black and Asian Forum, ask my mentees, ask Creative Access, ask Mama Youth project, ask Trish Adudo, Gillian Joseph, brenda Emmanus, Maxine Watson, Eddie Botsio, ask the BBC Apprentices… Ask the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust about the role I played in launching their charity, ask exRoyal Television Society boss, Simon Albury, ask who was there at the founding of the Cultural a Diversity Network, ask the heads of Comedy, Ents, Drama and Factual, ask Derren Lawford, ask Rianna Scipio or Moira Stuart…… Now I know there’s still more to do, but the notion that I’ve been silent on the issue in some kind of self serving way couldn’t be further from the truth.
Dotun and me do go back a long way. We met on an NUS training course when he was an exec at Essex and I was on the National Executive. From memory he did day one, met a girl and failed to complete the course……that was Dotun. We worked together at the Voice, he was a true pioneer with Steve Pope and XPress publishing, he’s become an accomplished radio broadcaster. I’ve long considered him a friend, and still do, but before we go tearing each other down lets be sure there’s a real case to answer. I’d be more than happy to talk to the Voice about anything….all they needed to do was ask.
Dotun then shot back with:
You and the supporters you have rounded up for these comments are living in a parallel universe.
No one is questioning that a handful of people and organisations can tip a nod to you, you were after all the exec in charge of black programmes at the BBC. You couldn’t deliver that remit without the help of the likes of Gillian Joseph, so bully for you.
But in all the years you have been at the BBC when have you ever stood up and said that the BBC was racist (or at the very least institutionally racist) which is the only conclusion one can reach by your comments that you would have achieved much more in your career if you were living in the States.
You have kept uncharacteristically schtum about that since you got your job as the BBC’s No.1 black man. Until now when you cease to hold that title. I and a million other black people in this country are sick and tired of people like yourself who were in positions of power and cry foul when they are leaving those positions. That is what my article is about. Why did you not cry foul before.
But we can carry on exchanging glancing blows like this ad infinitum and you know already that I can wipe the floor with your postulations. Much better to debate this in front of the people. I challenge you.
Over to you Pat!
Pat Younge was never going to ‘rock the boat’ for himself while he was riding high at the BBC. It is always easier and safer to speak out after you have moved on. This nonsense happens all the time in the world of sport. Black British footballers pull this exact same stunt, e.g. when John Barnes was running around playing for England he never once publicly addressed the racism that went on behind the scenes, he was happy to play deaf, dumb and blind. But as soon as John retired that was when he decided to speak out.
The same can also be said for Sol ‘expressionless’ Campbell. I don’t EVER remember hearing a word come out of that man’s mouth during his playing days. However since hanging up his boots Sol (turned Dr Martin Luther King Jr) cannot stop talking about racism and the injustice of it all.
In the world of television comedian/actor Lenny Henry springs to mind. When Lenny was cock of the walk at the BBC back in the 1980s and in a position to help implement change he never really spoke out about the lack of diversity in television . But almost three decades later (and no longer cock of the walk at Auntie Beeb) Lenny is now chairing committees, speaking out at conferences and calling for racial quotas to increase racial diversity on British screens.
Isn’t it a bit late in the day for all this talk Pat and Lenny?
I understand that while both men were at the height of their powers they probably feared losing everything if they dared to speak out, but in reality that would have been the best time to have started the ball rolling.
Pat seems to believe that life would have been easier had he been living in America. Maybe, but let us not forget African-Americans have been fighting a lot longer than us (read up on African-American history and the struggle Pat) and have worked hard to get laws passed that ensure corporations provide opportunities for them in the work force. None of this has happened over night and they will always be the first to tell the rest of the world that ‘listen we still have a long way to go’.
Your thoughts please….
Categories: UK News
I think Dotun has a point! I magined if all blacks in places of influence spoke up. I believe we need those martin luther king days again. I really would love to see something or someone who looks like my story, history in media, lead role, no one can tell our story like us. They know but most blacks execs don’t want rock the both. Pat should stop mentioning just handful people who we don’t even see anymore.we need a black cosby show in uk, family matters fresh prince of bel air, we need a uk version not some silly blacks as detectives in drama.
I believe that most blacks who made it don’t talk about racism, because of fear for retaliation, even do they see and now they look the other way, they don’t want to jeopardize what they have accomplish with hard work. Something has to go terrible wrong for them to speak out, or they’re no longer relevant so they speak out to draw attention to them self. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for a cause He believed in, theses black celebs are self serving.
Pat Younge was speaking out at the start of his career at Channel 4 and carried on at the BBC, Discovery and back again at the BBC. He made a particularly stirring speech at the
Edinburgh TV Festival some years ago. He is always ready when asked. If you have anger direct it where it might do some good – not at a good soldier.
This is my final comment on this matter, which I posted elsewhere in response to Duton’s ‘rebuttal’ above. I would simply suggest that anyone who suggests I’ve ducked this issue should simply google me and check the record.
” Dotun, your reputation is at stake because your article is error strewn, and to read it one would struggle to know that you have been taking the BBC’s money for many many years and I don’t remember you ever speaking truth to power on this issue. Maybe you did and I missed it, but here’s a chance to remind us.
“I know that I have done so, at the highest levels and on many occasions. If Dotun’s charge is that I’ve been publicly silent on the issues here I am on Radio 4’s The Media Show, at the heart of the BBC and media establishment.
“I’ve spent my time working with people inside and outside the organisation to effect change. Never easy, not glamorous and not always achieving the results we want but there’s been no shortage of effort. So, whilst I’m happy to have generated some heat for your column and some page views for the Voice, I’m not accountable to you, and the idea that I will prolong your period in the limelight off the back of my reputation in some sort of ‘debate’ is totally misguided. I had already volunteered myself to do a Q&A with the BBC Black and Asian forum before I leave the BBC to establish my own consultancy in December, and as you’re a black BBC employee you are more than welcome to attend. ”
“Beyond that I have achieved what I set out to do, which is to put a rebuttal on the record that will live as long as the error ridden article, and won’t be commenting further in this forum regardless of what’s written. “