My Spectator column this week is about the BBC’s much written about initiative to ensure 25% of its employees are from “lower socio-economic groups” by 2027 so it “reflects the extraordinary diversity of the lives, backgrounds and experiences of the whole U.K. public”. Needless to say, I’m unconvinced that yet another ‘diversity target’ will do anything to reduce the progressive, metropolitan bias of the BBC.
The problem lies in the way the BBC has defined ‘working-class’.
To qualify for special treatment, applicants will be asked what the occupation was of the main parental earner in their household when they were 14. But what if they had no occupation? I know plenty of posh deadbeats who don’t work because they don’t need to. Would they be classed as ‘unemployed’ by the BBC box-tickers? And what about recent arrivals in the U.K. who have had to take menial jobs to make ends meet? My cleaner in the 1990s had been a professor of geology in the Soviet Union before its collapse.
No, if the BBC’s aim is to diversify the political attitudes and cultural taste of its staff, it should go the whole hog and stipulate that only white British working-class applicants – defined by a combination of household income when they were growing up and their parents’ education – are capable of meeting this target. They are the truly under-represented group among the BBC’s staff, as they are in all the professions, not least because they’re less likely to go to university than almost any other demographic. According to a report by the House of Commons Education Committee last year, the proportion of white British pupils eligible for free school meals participating in higher education by the age of 19 in 2018-19 was 16%, the lowest of any ethnic group apart from travellers of Irish heritage and Gypsy/Roma.
One reason that white British working-class people will continue to be under-represented at the Beeb in spite of the new quota is because the Corporation announced last year it wasn’t satisfied with just 15% of its workforce being from BAME backgrounds and wants to increase that to 20%. And many of the applicants who tick the BAME box will also tick the ‘working-class’ box, given that non-white people from low income families are more likely to go to university than whites. According to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, 59% of black African pupils eligible for free school meals progressed to higher education in 2018-19, 58.6% of Bangladeshis, 57.2% of Indians, 47.1% of Pakistanis and 31.8% of black Caribbean pupils. So much for ‘white privilege’.
And that 16% figure for poor white British pupils conceals an even starker figure – just 12.7% of boys in this group progress to higher education, compared with 19.4% of girls. That’s the truly disadvantaged group in modern Britain: white working-class males. It is their taste that is completely neglected by the BBC, with the exception of Match of the Day. But even for those brief moments of pleasure on Saturday and Sunday night, they have to put up with the BBC commentators extravagantly praising the Premier League footballers taking the knee before the game. The implication is that people like them are racist troglodytes badly in need of cultural re-education.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Andrew Tettenborn has made a similar argument about this new BBC hiring quota in the Critic.